History and culture routes

Baroque Modena

Modena - MO

In 1598 Modena became the capital of the Estense Duchy.
This called for a new look, ranging from the palace to the homes of the courtiers, from the summer residences to the churches.
The city took on a fresh face, attracting ever more artists and architects in the quest to embellish and enrich it.
The small medieval streets gave way to broad, straight thoroughfares.
Bartolomeo Avanzini was called upon to design the new residence for the d'Este family.
Beginning in 1634 and for the next two centuries the Palazzo Ducale (Ducal Palace), now the head office of the Military Academy, was the residence of the duke and his family.
During the summer the d'Este family moved to their summer home, the Villa delle Delizie (Villa of Delight), otherwise known as the Palazzo Ducale at Sassuolo, where they spent their time on the belvedere and at the Peschiera, a small artificial lake set among rocky outcrops and fountains.

In the city too the dukes had places where they could refresh themselves and take a walk.
The Estense Giardino Ducale (Ducal Garden), situated very close to the Palazzo Ducale and now a public park, contained the seventeenth-century Palazzina (small palace), designed by Gaspare Vigarani.
Bartolomeo Avanzini was commissioned to design a place fit for the children of the new aristocracy.
This resulted in the construction of the church and College of San Carlo looking on to Via Emilia, with curved porticoes and elegant pillars. The monastic orders also contributed to the renovation and enrichment of urban buildings.

They constructed the churches of San giorgio, S. Biagio with prodigious frescoes by Mattia Preti, and S. Vincenzo, the Pantheon of the ducal family.
The Church of S. Agostino was also rebuilt in honour of the d'Este family.
The wealth and internal decoration of the churches of San Bartolomeo and San Barnaba were impressive too.
Meanwhile Duke Francesco I had his portrait painted by the most famous artists of the baroque period.
Prestigious examples of this are on show in the Estense Gallery, where, among works of the highest level, one can see the bust of Francesco I sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and the portrait by Diego Velazquez.