Passions & Places

Barco Ducale

Parco Ducale

The history of the small town of Urbania is connected to that of the near Urbino through happenings of destruction and splendour. In the 6th century the Barbarians destroyed this Roman settlement in the high valley of the Metauro. In the Middle Ages, it became a rival of Urbino that destroyed it twice during the 13th c because Urbania had been loyal to Guelphs. In 1282, the Pope Martin IV had it re-constructed under the name of Castel Durante; in 1367 it became the capital of Massa Trabaria and in 1424 entered as a part of the Dukedom of Urbino, under the Principalities of Montefeltro and of Della Rovere.

The last Duke of Montefeltro, Francesco Maria II della Rovere, dead in 1631, had his residence here; in 1636, under the Pope Urban II, the territory was possessed by the Pontifical State (from here derives the name of Urbania).

This is, in a nutshell, the history of Urbania. The history that, thanks to the Dukes of Urbino who made of it an important cultural centre, left behind innumerable artistic and architectonic testimonies. Beside other important accomplishments that glorified Urbania through centuries, Francesco Maria II left to the town a rich library. Today, this small town is a cultural centre of a thousand initiatives, dominated with the distinctive Duke's Palace.

And, as we said at the beginning, the river connects that building, situated in the ancient part of the town with its walls perpendicular to the water, to Duke's Park, hunting dwellings of the Dukes of Urbino outside the town walls. Duke's Park, called also Barco, is an important architectonic accomplishment of Francesco di Giorgio Martini, on which, in 16th c, intervened Girolamo Genga. In the 18th c, a massive construction in Vanvitelli's stile was built on this area: a convent of the Minor Friars called "Zoccolanti". Its particularity consists in having a church at the place of the cloister. Along the river, meadows and a small wood cover lost luxury of one of the most vivid Renaissance courts.

On the other hand, the centre of Urbania is pretty vivacious. Inside the walls, the Duke's Palace - turned Palazzo Brancaleoni - re-constructed in the 15th and the 16th centuries by Francesco di Giorgio Martini on commission of Federico da Montefeltro: the building with the “Courtyard of Honour”, 15th century cellars and the Communal Library. At present it houses an important collection of ancient texts, manuscripts, maps, the Art Gallery and a collection of majolica (other inestimable patrimony of Urbania). Pearls of religious art are the Cathedral and annexed Diocesan Museum, Bishop's Palace, St Francis church, the oratory of Corpus Domini, Convents of St Clare and St Mary Magdalene. The Communal Palace with a belfry, re-constructed by Genga in the 16th c distinguishes as a laic symbol.

Worth mentioning is the famous Chiesa dei Morti (The Church of Dead). Its gothic portal contains the Cemetery of Mummies. The so-called “Compagnia della Buona morte” (Good death Company) existed in Urbania, a confraternity that occupied in burying the poor in common graves. In the first half of the 19th c, several mummified bodies (preserved thanks to particular conditions set in a morbid ground) were extracted.

Reflecting splendour with its Duke's Park, Urbania, has never lost its role of the little “capital” of the Dukedom. It lived its full life during the Renaissance and has become a matter of interest for artists and famous architects. Embedded in a valley between Apennine and the hills and hold tight between curves of the river, it cherishes its artistic treasures that dignify, once again, the high valley of the Metauro, the valley of a thousand old towns and castles.


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