one of the many castles scattered in the Marches’ hills, visitors cannot
but notice the fairy-tale atmosphere characterizing them. Everybody can
easily imagine the solemn parties, the sumptuous banquets and the
wonderful tournaments that took place in the Renaissance period at the
The works by many important artists who lived and worked in the Marches
enrich the history of Italian arts. These include Francesco of Giorgio
Martini (born in Siena in 1439, he worked until 1502), who designed
important fortified towns in the region.
Think, for instance, of the majestic and inexpugnable San Leo
stronghold, of the splendid castle in Mondavio (a real war
machine) and of the elegant fortification of Jesi.
One of his best collaborators and pupil was Baccio Pontelli
(1450-1495), who applied his teacher’s ideas in the design of the castle
of Acquaviva Picena, in the renovation of the Offida castle
and in the building of the bulky stronghold Roveresca in Senigallia.
He was aided by another great architect of that time, the Dalmatian Luciano
Laurana, whose elegant style may be recognized in many fortified
hamlets in the region, such as in the beautiful stronghold Costanza of
Other important architects were Antonio of Sangallo the younger,
who shaped the stronghold Malatesta in Ascoli Piceno and the Citadel
of Ancona, along with Andrea Beltrami from Como, who
transformed an ancient Benedictine monastery into the picturesque Rancia
Castle in Tolentino.
The sublime apex of the Renaissance military structures in the Marches is
undoubtedly the unparalleled palace-fortress of Urbino (a precious
jewel box full of a unique beauty).
All the aforementioned architects worked to build this palace, as well as Leon
Battista Alberti and the young Donato Bramante, who was born in
Fermignano and who learned from Laurana all the lessons that later led him
to work at the most important Italian courts.
Doubts persist over the architects who made many other masterpieces of
military building, such as the beautiful Gradara stronghold, the Frontone
Castle (typically shaped as a ship with the bow), the intact Corinaldo
and the Urbisaglia stronghold.
Unfortunately, other examples may now only be imagined, because many
fortifications were almost destroyed by the lords to prevent them from
being conquered by enemies. This happened to the Cagli and Fossombrone
castles, in both cases the few visible ruins bear witness to the
imperiousness of Martini’s works.
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