UNESCO World Heritage Site #244: City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto

UNESCO World Heritage Site #244: City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto
UNESCO World Heritage Site #244: City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto

From the World Heritage inscription:

Vicenza represents a unique artistic achievement in the many architectural contributions from Andrea Palladio integrated within its historic fabric and creating its overall character. Through its architecture, the city has exerted exceptional influence on architectural and urban design in most European countries and throughout the world.

Vicenza is situated in the Veneto region of northern Italy on the low hills between the mountains of Berici and Lessini, on a natural communication route. The city of Vicenza was founded in the 2nd or 1st century BC by the Veneti and was granted Roman citizenship with the status of municipium in 49 BC. The ancient town plan is still recognizable in that of the modern town, Corso Palladio being the decumanus maximus and Contra Porti the cardo maximus . Among the public buildings erected from the time of Augustus that survive are the remains of the theatre, now incorporated in a more recent structure, and sections of the aqueduct to the north of the city.

The city became the See of a Christian diocese at the end of the 4th century AD. In the 5th century it was on the route of successive barbarian groups, whose ravages were exacerbated by a series of disastrous plagues, which left the region depopulated. It formed part of the Langobardic kingdom and became chief town of one of the 36 duchies. Eventually the pope called on Charlemagne to drive out the Lombards, and Vicenza became a Frankish Countship within the March of Friuli. It was during this period that the first Benedictine communities of San Felice and San Pietro were established. The disintegration of the Carolingian Empire saw fresh invaders, this time the Magyars, whose depredations led to the construction of city walls. The bloody wars between episcopal feudatories and the Ghibelline Counts that disfigured most of the 12th and early 13th centuries raged around Vicenza. The region became divided into a patchwork of small seigneuries, which fought among themselves, only uniting to defy the Holy Roman Emperor. Like most Italian cities of the period, Vicenza evolved its own administration, which in 1208 introduced controls on building within the enceinte of the walls. A new urban perimeter was created by the Della Scala family, enclosing the most important streets within the city.

A movement by the small states in the region towards coalescence was interpreted by Venice as a threat and so in 1404 La Serenissima annexed the entire region. Vicenza remained part of the Venetian Republic until its fall at the end of the 18th century. The feudal aristocracy was stripped of its powers and replaced by a dominant mercantile class. Feudal lands were expropriated and sold to patrician Venetian families, who created great agricultural estates on which they built sumptuous mansions. The city also prospered under Venetian rule, benefiting from its situation on a major natural communication route. The town became polarized around the four main piazzas that still exist. There had been limited expansion to the east and west in the late 14th century but the city retained its basic form throughout the succeeding centuries. The wealth of its leading citizens resulted in the erection of many lavish buildings, strongly influenced by Venetian taste, but it was the advent of Andrea Palladio that gave Vicenza its enduring form.

Andrea Palladio (1508-80) was profoundly influenced by his study of the surviving monuments of classical Rome and of the works of Vitruvius. For Vicenza he created both public (Basilica, Loggia del Capitaniato, Teatro Olimpico) and private buildings. A total of 26 individual buildings or parts of buildings known to have been designed or reconstructed by Palladio or attributed to him make up the World Heritage site – 23 in the city itself and three villas in its immediate environs. The palazzi or town houses were fitted into the urban texture of the medieval city, creating picturesque ensembles and continuous street facades in which the Veneto Gothic style combines with Palladio’s articulated classicism. These urban compositions closely related to theatre design, which link reality and make-believe, are unique to Vicenza. A similar approach to composition is shown by the location of the suburban villa known as La Rotonda, as seen from the Villa Cricoli.

City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto

It is easy to categorize Vincenza as another historical European city type of UNESCO site. In fact, it is really an architectural site designed to showcase the work of Andrea Palladio.

The site consists of two parts: the city of Vincenza and many villas located outside the city in the surrounding area. In the city, the primary Palladio buildings are the Basilica and the Teatro Olimpico (shown above). The basilica is actually not a church and contains the Torre Bissara, one of the highest towers in the city. The Teatro Olimpico is a greek style theater created for the city. The villas are harder to reach as they require a significant amount of walking or a car.

Vicenza is an easy day trip from either Verona or Venice, which it lies between. It can be reached by many of the high speed trains which leave from Venice as well as slower (and cheaper) regional trains.

Overview

City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto

The City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Italy. It was inscribed in 1994 and is recognized for its representation of the Palladian style of architecture. This particular style became popular and influential in terms of the architectural designs used all over Europe and in the US.

The UNESCO site consists of buildings and structures that were a creation of Architect Andrea Pallado, to which this particular architectural style was named after. The buildings that were included in this listing vary from basilicas, theatres, villas, and more. These buildings were mostly urban buildings.

About the City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto

City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto

The city of Vicenza, which forms half of the UNESCO site City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto, is a city known for its detail. Every street will offer something to admire. The extensive city planning and the unique architecture that defined this city combined to make it unique from all other Italian cities that are recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Aside from the unique architectural landscape that the Palladian architectural style has brought to the city, it has also had long term influence on art history. It has harmoniously combined the architectonic works with urban spaces that later served as a model for modern and contemporary European architecture. The city of Vicenza was founded in the 6th and 7th centuries BC.

In 1550, Palladio produced a wide range of villas wherein its scale and decoration completely matched the wealth and social standing of the owners. From the rich Pisani clan, to the rich Venetian bankers and patricians, they wanted a villa that reflected their social and economic standing. This is how the City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto came to be. Palladio designed their villas to have a loggia façade, huge vaults, stone piers, and rusticated Doric pilasters. The wealthy patrons of Palladio were impressed by his ability to create impressive designs without the need for stone carvings, which were much more expensive.

City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto

Here is a list of the buildings that were included within the UNESCO protected area City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto:

  • City of Vicenza (there are 23 buildings in total)
  • Villa Trissino
  • Villa Gazzotti Grimani
  • Villa Almerico Capra
  • Villa Angarano
  • Villa Caldogno
  • Villa Chiericati
  • Villa Forni Cerato
  • Villa Godi
  • Villa Pisani
  • Villa Poiana
  • Villa Saraceno
  • Villa Thiene
  • Villa Trissino
  • Villa Valmarana
  • Villa Badoer
  • Villa Barbaro
  • Villa Emo
  • Villa Zeno
  • Villa Foscari
  • Villa Cornaro
  • Villa Serego
  • Villa Piovene

The UNESCO site City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto was extended in 1995. This extension included 21 rural villas within the Veneto region. All of these villas were also designed by Palladio. These villas serve as summer residences or villa-farms.


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #243: City of Verona

UNESCO World Heritage Site #243: City of Verona
UNESCO World Heritage Site #243: City of Verona

From the World Heritage inscription:

In its urban structure and its architecture, Verona is an outstanding example of a town that has developed progressively and uninterruptedly over 2,000 years, incorporating artistic elements of the highest quality from each succeeding period. It also represents in an exceptional way the concept of the fortified town at several seminal stages of European history.

The city is situated in northern Italy at the foot of Monte Lessini on the River Adige. It was founded by ancient tribes and became a Roman colony in the 1st century BC, rising rapidly in importance. It was occupied by the Ostrogoth Theodoric I (5th century), by the Lombards, and by Charlemagne (774). In the early 12th century, it became an independent commune, suffering during the wars of Guelphs and Ghibellines. It prospered under the rule of the Scaliger family and particularly under Cangrande I. It fell to Venice in 1405, was part of the Austrian Empire from 1797, and joined the Kingdom of Italy in 1866.

The core of the city consists of the Roman town in the loop of the river. The Scaligers rebuilt the walls, embracing a much larger territory in the west and another vast area on the east bank of the river. This remained the size of the city until the 20th century. The heart of Verona is the ensemble consisting of the Piazza delle Erbe (with its picturesque vegetable market) and the Piazza dei Signori, with their historic buildings, including the Palazzo del Comune, Palazzo del Governo, Loggia del Consiglio, Arche Scaligere and Domus Nova. The Piazza Bra has a number of classicist buildings.

In the north of Italy, Verona is one of the richest cities in Roman remains. These include the Porta Borsari, a city gate at the beginning of the decumanus maximus; the Porta Leoni, only half of which remains, attached to a later building; the Arco dei Gavi, dismantled in the Napoleonic period and rebuilt next to Castelvecchio in the 1930s; the Ponte Pietra; the Roman theatre, excavated in the mid-19th century and restored for use in spectacles; and the Amphitheatre Arena, the second-largest after the Colosseum in Rome (originally a wall of three orders surrounded it, but this collapsed in an earthquake in the 12th century).

City of Verona

Despite all the history which can be found in Verona, it is still best know for someone who never once visited: William Shakespeare.

The story of Romeo and Juliette still is a huge draw for the city. The House of Juliette is a tourist attraction run by the city and there is a bronze statue of Juliette in the courtyard of the house underneath a balcony.

The attractions related to a fictional story by a 16th Century English playwright are not what make Verona a world heritage site, however. Verona dates back to the Romans and their presence is felt by the largest and most significant attraction in the city: the Roman Arena.

The Verona Roman Arena is one of the best preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world. It still is used to host performances.

Verona also has a host of fortifications which ring the city which harken back to its days as a city state.

Verona is best seen as an attraction in itself but can be visited on a day trip from Venice, which is only 1 hour away by train.

Overview

City of Verona

The City of Verona is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Italy. It was inscribed in the year 2000 owing to its artistic heritage. The city is located along the Adige River with more than a quarter of a million inhabitants. It is also one of Italy’s most popular tourist destinations. Part of its popularity is also the reason why it was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. One of the most important structures in the city is the Arena. This is an ancient amphitheater built by the Romans wherein performances such as operas, shows, and annual fairs are held during lyrical season.

The City of Verona was also popularized by the plays of Shakespeare: “Romeo and Juliet”, “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”, and “The Taming of the Shrew”. Despite these plays, it is unclear if Shakespeare ever visited Verona prior to writing these plays.

About the City of Verona

The City of Verona is one of the 51 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy. This city of visual stunning excellence encompasses over 2,000 years of history within its 77 square miles of land area. It is one of the best examples of the harmonious blend of artistic elements with influences from the diverse epochs it has gone through.

Its geographic location is part of the reason why it has transformed into an important urban center in the province of Veneto in Italy. To be specific, there are several ruins from the time of the Roman rulers in the 1st century BC. Some of these ruins and structures that hint of a Roman past include the archaeological site of Porta Leoni, the Gavi Arch at Porta Borsari, and the Arena of the Roman Theatre. The city experienced the height of its splendor during the Scaliger Dynasty, which is around the 13th to the 14th centuries.

City of Verona

The City of Verona also experienced other periods of success during the Swabian reign up to the French and Austrian dominations. If there is truly one city that serves as the face of Italian history, it would be the City of Verona. From the works left by the Romans, the palazzi of the Renaissance, to the Medieval towns, it has visual evidence of that too.

Below are some of the monumental structures and landmarks that are found within Verona that exemplifies its UNESCO World Heritage Site status:

Piazza delle Erbe: This is the location of the original Roman Forum. It represents the various historic moments of the city. It features 13th century buildings, central statue from the Roman epoch, the Madonna Verona fountain, and more.

Roman Theatre: The ancient Roman Theatre is another key monument within the City of Verona. It is built on the sloping side of a gorgeous hill.

The Arena: This is another monument of the Roman rule in the City of Verona. It was built in the first Century BC. It was built to host gladiator combats and then experienced a long period of abandonment.

Scaliger Arches: This is a group of five Gothic funerary monuments in Verona, Italy. It aims to celebrate the Scaliger family, which is one of the dynasties that ruled Verona.

Piazza dei Signori: This is a square within the City of Verona and served as the former center of power within the city.

Lamberti Towers: It is the tallest tower in Verona rising up to 84 meters high. It is located within Piazza Erbe. It was built in 1172 by the powerful Lamberti family.


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #242: Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna

UNESCO World Heritage Site #242: Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna
UNESCO World Heritage Site #242: Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna

From the World Heritage inscription:

The early Christian religious monuments in Ravenna are of outstanding significance by virtue of the supreme artistry of the mosaic art that they contain, and also because of the crucial evidence that they provide of artistic and religious relationships and contacts at an important period of European cultural history.

In the reign of Augustus the port of Classis was established at Ravenna. Following the barbarian invasions of the 5th century, Honorius made it his capital. His sister, Galla Placidia, lived in Ravenna during her widowhood in the first half of the 5th century, and made it a centre of Christian art and culture. With the deposition of Romulus Augustulus in 476, Ravenna entered into a period of prosperity and influence. It was taken by Belisarius in 540 and remained the centre of Byzantine control in Italy until 752. Its subsequent history was one of decline and stagnation. After 1441 it was under Venetian and then papal rule.

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, built in the second quarter of the 5th century, has a plain bare exterior lightened by pilasters that meet in arches and is crowned by a brick dome concealed by a small quadrangular tower. The interior is lavishly decorated. The lower part is clad in panels of yellow marble and the remainder is entirely covered in mosaics. The building is in the western Roman architectural tradition.

The Neonian Baptistery, built by Bishop Orso in the early 5th century, was decorated with mosaics by his successor, Neone, around 450. The interior consists of four apses, articulated into two orders of arches, rising to the great cupola. The large mosaic medallion at the apex of the dome shows the Baptism of Christ by John the Baptist. This is the finest and most complete surviving example of the early Christian baptistry.

The Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo was built in the early years of the 6th century. Inside the interior is divided by 24 marble columns into a nave and two aisles, with a rounded apse. At the present time mosaics cover the two side walls at the foot of the nave, from the ceiling to the tops of the supporting arches, in three decorated fascias. Those in the upper two fascias are in traditional Roman style whereas those in the third show strong Byzantine influence.

The Church of San Vitale was completed around 547. It was fronted by a large quadroportico, converted into a cloister when the church became part of a Benedictine monastery. There are two storeys, the upper one encircling the dome. The apse, which is semi-circular on the interior and polygonal on the outside, is flanked by two small rectangular rooms terminating in niches and two semi-circular sacristies.

Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna

Of the three world heritage sites I visited in Emilia-Romagna, Ravenna was by far the most impressive.

Ravenna was the capital of Western Roman Empire at the time it fell in 476 and remained the Byzantine capital of the region afterwards. There is very little which can be thought of as “roman” in the city, especially compared with what you will see in Rome. The most significant buildings are the Byzantine era churches from the 5th-7th Century.

There are a total of 8 buildings in the Ravenna area which are part of the site. 6 of the 8 are located within walking distance of each other in the middle of town. The other two are located just outside of town and are accessible by car.

Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna

The most significant of the churches are the Basilica of San Vitale and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. Both are located on the same property. Both buildings are romanesque designs with exquisite, well preserved mosaic artwork. The octagonal basilica is very reminiscent of the Aachen Cathedral in Germany, which is also of a similar romanesque design.

I found Ravenna to be one of the most overlooked attractions in Italy. It doesn’t get the attention of a Venice or Florence, but is well worth a visit. It is only a 45 minute train ride from Bologna and can easily be visited on a day trip.

Overview

Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna

The Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Italy. Inscribed in 1996, this UNESCO site is a unique collection of monuments and mosaics that date back to the 5th-6th centuries. All of these monuments are located within the city of Ravenna, which served as an important port during this time.

In addition, Ravenna was also known as Classis under the rule of the Romans and Byzantines. It became a center of Christian art and culture. This was made possible by Galla Placidia, who is the wife of Western Roman Emperor Constantius III. Being a fervent Christian, she was involved in the restoration and building of various churches that would became part of the Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna recognized by UNESCO today.

There are 8 monuments in total that form Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna as one collective unit.

About the Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna

Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna

In order to understand the cultural significance of the Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna as a UNESCO site, it is important to take a closer look into each of the monuments that are listed:

The Neonian Baptistery in Ravenna (430)

The Neonian Baptistery was built in the 5th century and is known as one of the oldest religious structures in Ravenna. Therefore, it was listed as one of the monuments part of the Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna. The mosaics in this baptistery have been restored in the 19th century; however, the mosaics are still one of the primary reasons why tourists visit the baptistery.

The Archiepiscopal Chapel in Ravenna (500)

In the early 6th century, the Archiepiscopal Chapel is located within the Archiepiscopal Museum. It is recognized as one of the smallest sites to be listed within UNESCO. The chapel is modeled after a Greek cross and its vaults are painted with mosaics. It is one of the oldest private oratory in the Christian world.

The Arian Baptistery (500)

Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna

This 6th century octagon is part of the Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna because of the mosaics and iconography that resembled those of the Neonian Baptistery. This octagon was built in order to give Arians a separate baptistery from those that follow the doctrine.

Basilica Sant’Apollinare Nuovo (500)

This is another monument that is part of the UNESCO site Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna that was established in the 6th century. It served as the palatine church of Theodoric along with the mosaics that are found here. Some of the mosaics that were present in this church was either destroyed or altered. However, many of the mosaics at the lateral walls of the nave are still present today.

Basilica San Vitale (548)

This monument is one of the most beautiful that is part of the Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna. One of the most distinctive features of this basilica is its use of oriental details of the architecture and mosaic. In addition, the mosaics of the Basilica San Vitale are considered as one of the best examples of Byzantine art that are located outside of Istanbul.

Mausoleum of Galla Placidia (430)

Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna

This 5th century mausoleum is the oldest in Ravenna. In addition, it is part of the Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna is because it acts as the artistic highlight in the city. It is believed that Galla Placidia herself commissioned that this small chapel be built in AD 425. Even though it was named after her, her remains were never kept in this mausoleum.

The Mausoleum of Theodoric (520)

This is the tomb of the Ostrogoth King who passed away in 526. This building is unique even though it is listed as one of the Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna. It had no distinctive architectural element that would link it to the Greek and Roman periods. The single round stone that serves as a roof to the tomb is one of its most distinctive features. It is unknown how that stone was placed in that particular position.

The Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe (549)

The final monument to complete the list of Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna is the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe. This is the largest Late Antiquity church in the city. It is located about 8 kilometers from the city center and served as the Roman Empire’s second largest naval base.


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #241: Ferrara, City of the Renaissance, and its Po Delta

UNESCO World Heritage Site #241: Ferrara, City of the Renaissance, and its Po Delta
UNESCO World Heritage Site #241: Ferrara, City of the Renaissance, and its Po Delta

From the World Heritage inscription:

Ferrara is an outstanding planned Renaissance city which has retained its urban fabric virtually intact. The developments in town planning expressed in Ferrara were to have a profound influence on the development of urban design throughout the succeeding centuries. The brilliant Este court attracted a constellation of artists, poets and philosophers during the two seminal centuries of the Renaissance. The Po Delta is an outstanding planned cultural landscape which retains its original form to a remarkable extent.

Among the great Italian cities Ferrara is the only to have an original plan that is not derived from a Roman layout. It did not develop from a central area but rather on a linear axis, along the banks of the Po River, with longitudinal streets and many cross streets around which the medieval city was organized. The most significant characteristic of Ferrara’s urban history rests on the fact that it developed from the 14th century onwards and, for the first time in Europe, on the basis of planning regulations that are in use nowadays in all modern towns. This type of development is known as addizione ; the third phase was implemented in 1492, making Ferrara the only planned Renaissance town to have been completed.

The street network and the enclosing walls are closely linked with the palaces, the churches, and the gardens. Throughout the 16th century the city was planned with the aim of making it a future ‘capital’. Its evolution came to an end after the 17th century under papal administration, and the city did not undergo any extensions for almost three centuries. The city plan (1492) provided for doubling its area, an expansion limited to the south of the castle. This extension was completed by a new and very up-to-date defensive system made up of elements belonging to the various extensions carried out over several centuries (ramparts, keeps, semicircular towers, bastions, barbicans, etc.). These alterations completely changed the appearance of the city: new streets were created on a grid and buildings in a new style were built.

The most important monument surviving from the medieval period is the San Giorgio Cathedral dating back to the 12th century. The facade is a work of the master builder and sculptor Niccolo who, influenced by Benedetto Antelami, worked in the first half of the 12th century; the construction of the bell tower began in 1451 to a design attributed to Leon Battista Alberti. Standing in front of the cathedral, the 13th-century Palazzo Comunale was the first residence of the Este family and was joined in the late 15th century to the Castello di San Michele or Castello Estense. This massive, four-towered fortress was built in 1385 by the court architect Bartolomeo da Novara after a violent popular revolt. Works were carried out until 1570 with the creation of a noble residence with large halls to receive the court and embellished by frescoes and marble balconies and logge.

Ferrara, City of the Renaissance, and its Po Delta

I’m surprised that Ferrara and the Po Delta are combined into one world heritage site. They could each probably stand alone and Ferrara isn’t the only world heritage site in the Po Delta. Mantova is also in the Po Delta and the case could be just as easily be made for combining those two.

Ferrara is an interesting city. The primary attractions are the Castello Estense (shown in photo) and the Basilica Cattedrale di San Giorgio Martire. There are many other plazas and squares to be found in the city as well.

Ferrara is an easy day trip from Bologna. It takes about an hour to get there by train, which run frequently throughout the day.

Overview

Ferrara, City of the Renaissance, and its Po Delta

Ferrara, City of the Renaissance, and its Po Delta is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Italy. It was inscribed in 1995 since it is considered as the best example of Italian Renaissance town planning. The layout of the town and its Renaissance features also influenced the entire landscape in the region.

Ferrara lies in the middle of Po Valley and has retained the atmosphere of the past until today. The ruins from the Renaissance era blend harmoniously with the modern developments around it. The combined human activity with the Renaissance urban planning are significant factors that helped it earn the nod from UNESCO.

About Ferrara, City of the Renaissance, and its Po Delta

Ferrara, City of the Renaissance, and its Po Delta

The city of Ferrara is located about 50 kilometers northeast of Bologna. It is located close to the Po di Volano, which is a branch of the Po River’s main stream. The Ferrara, City of the Renaissance, and its Po Delta is a UNESCO site consisting of several important monuments including the Este ducal residences in Diamantina, Villa della Mensa, towns of Comacchio and Cento, and the Voghiera and Schifanoia.

Ferrara, City of the Renaissance, and its Po Delta flourished during the Renaissance period. For this reason, the city is now recognized by UNESCO for its image of splendor and how it showcased its wealth at that time. The original layout of the town was re-designed under the ruling of Ercole d’Este I.

Biagio Rossetti created the new layout design in 1492. The new layout was commissioned for in the hopes of adding new streets that would link the Renaissance city to the medieval heart of the region. They did so by adding fortifications and other similar features to the city’s original layout.

Ferrara, City of the Renaissance, and its Po Delta

Ercole d’Este I was considered as one of the top patrons of arts in the late 15th century up to the early part of the 16th century. This was also the time wherein the Ferrara, City of the Renaissance, and its Po Delta was growing as a cultural center. It is popular for its visual arts and music.

Since it was inscribed in 1995, the site was extended to include the Pomposa Abbey and Po Delta (in 1999). This revision to the area encompassed by the UNESCO site also prompted a name change. It was originally known as the City of Ferrara but the new UNESCO inscription lists it as Ferrara, City of the Renaissance, and its Po Delta.


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #240: Cathedral, Torre Civica and Piazza Grande, Modena

UNESCO World Heritage Site #240: Cathedral, Torre Civica and Piazza Grande, Modena
UNESCO World Heritage Site #240: Cathedral, Torre Civica and Piazza Grande, Modena

From the World Heritage inscription:

The joint creation of Lanfranco and Wiligelmo is a masterpiece of human genius in which a dialectical relationship between architecture and sculpture was achieved in Romanesque art. The Modena complex bears exceptional witness to the cultural traditions of the 12th century and is one of the best examples of an architectural complex where religious and civic values are combined in a medieval town.

Modena is located in the Po plain at the crossroads of the ancient Via Aemilia linking Piacenza with Rimini and the road leading to the Brenner Pass.

The construction of the cathedral, dedicated to San Geminiano, and of the bell tower was decided when the Bishop’s See was vacant. The inscriptions in the cathedral and the text of the Relatio translationis sancti Geminiani provide invaluable evidence of the first phase of building (1099-1106), and mention the names of the architect, Lanfranco, and the sculptor, Wiligelmo. The new cathedral had to be larger than its predecessor, built by the schismatic Bishop Eribert in 1070, to prove that the clergy and people of Modena had returned to the Roman Catholic Church. Construction of the cathedral and the bell tower took place in an urban structure already largely formed. The cathedral was built on the site of that built by Bishop Eribert and destroyed to make way for it, on an axis oblique to the original. The Maestri Campionesi, architects and sculptors commissioned to maintain the building by the cathedral’s works office from the second half of the 12th century onwards, opened two side portals and the rose window in the facade, followed by the Porta Regia on the southern side (around 1180). Inside they enlarged the crypt, raised the choir, and expanded the roof in order to build a false transept (end of the 12th to start of the 13th centuries). The bell tower, whose tall silhouette is a landmark to travellers approaching the town, is closely linked to the cathedral by two arches.

Only minor changes have been made to the Piazza Grande. Its quadrangular shape has been preserved, and it has been lined on its northern side by the flank of the cathedral. The old and new Palazzi Comunali were connected by the clock tower (13th to 16th centuries) and blended in by the means of new facades and arcades (17th to 19th centuries). The brick Archbishop’s Palace, closely connected to the cathedral by a private passage, is on the western side of the square. It underwent a first transformation at the end of the 15th century, and an additional floor was added in 1776. Further changes were made in ensuing decades. The appearance of the southern side radically changed when the new Law Courts were built by Luigi Giacomelli in 1892 (replaced by a new building by Gio Ponti in the 1960s). The bell tower (Ghirlandina) and the cathedral are indivisible in both physical and stylistic terms. This monumental tower, built from the same materials as the cathedral, consists of six floors emphasized by small blind arcades lit by simple openings, and then by two- and then three-light windows on the upper floors. The austerity and power of the bottom half of the tower, which is reminiscent of Roman structures, is surmounted by an octagonal drum and an upper lantern which express the new feeling of the Maestri Campionesi for Gothic architecture.

Cathedral, Torre Civica and Piazza Grande, Modena

I wasn’t really sure what to think of Modena.

I’ve been to many “old European city” world heritage sites. This isn’t the type of site that is going to jump out and grab you by the throat.

For starters, the site isn’t that big. It consists of the cathedral and the piazza behind the cathedral including the large city tower. The piazza doesn’t really seem like anything special and the facade of the cathedral isn’t overwhelming. (most romanesque churches aren’t)

The best part is certainly the inside of the cathedral. There aren’t that many romanesque cathedrals in Italy and this is one of the better ones. You can get a feel for the age of the building the moment you see the brickwork on the inside. The raised altar and what I assume is the crypt below it is also something you don’t see is most Italian cathedrals.

The back of the cathedral facing the piazza was under renovation when I visited in May 2013.

If you are in Bologna, Modena is a short train ride away and there are many things to seen and do in Modena besides the cathedral. It is worth a day trip, but it is probably not a destination in itself unless you are a serious world heritage enthusiast.

Overview

Cathedral, Torre Civica and Piazza Grande, Modena

The Cathedral, Torre Civica and Piazza Grande, Modena is a group of 12th century Romanesque structures in Italy. It is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site that was inscribed in 1997. The site consists primarily of Christian religious structure.

Indeed, both the religious and civic values and structures makeup this massive complex known as Cathedral, Torre Civica and Piazza Grande, Modena. The square houses all of the key structures and buildings in the 12th century including the administrative buildings, churches, and workshops. According to UNESCO, the site was inscribed because it bears witness to and exemplifies the traditions of the region in the 12th century. The architectural complex is a microcosm of the religious and civic traditions of this Christian medieval town.

About Cathedral, Torre Civica and Piazza Grande, Modena

When talking about the UNESCO site Cathedral, Torre Civica and Piazza Grande, Modena, there is one structure that isn’t left out in the conversation – Modena Cathedral. The cathedral is indeed the primary feature of this world heritage architectural complex. It is a Roman Cathedral church located in Modena, Italy.

Cathedral, Torre Civica and Piazza Grande, Modena

It was built in dedication to Assumption of the Virgin Mary and Saint Geminianus. It was the former seat of the Diocese in Modena and was eventually the seat of the Archdiocese as well. The Modena Cathedral was consecrated in 1184 and is one of Europe’s most important Romanesque buildings. If you want to visit the Modena Cathedral as part of your tour in the Cathedral, Torre Civica and Piazza Grande, Modena, the admission is free. However, you must pay €3 to get up the Ghirlandina Tower. Meanwhile, the Cathedral is open from 7 AM to 12:30 PM and 3:30 PM to 7 PM.

The architectural remains of the Modena Cathedral were reused when the cathedral was re-built in 1099. Meanwhile, the façade and the side portals were enriched by adding sculptures as decorations. Most of the cathedral’s interiors were preserved though, such as the 12th century rood screen.

The Modena Cathedral was a collaborative work between architect Lanfranco and sculptor Wiligelmo. They worked together in the design and construction of this cathedral. Both of their names were mentioned as creators of this cathedral, which is unusual for the medieval traditions.

The Torre Civica is another main feature of this architectural medieval complex. It measures over 86 meters high and decorated with two ghirlande or marble railings at the top. It is also known as the Ghirlandina Tower. It has become a symbol of Modena not just in modern times but historically. Hence, it is one of the features of the UNESCO site Cathedral, Torre Civica and Piazza Grande, Modena. It is visible from almost any part of the city.

Finally, the Piazza Grande is the final component of the UNESCO site Cathedral, Torre Civica and Piazza Grande, Modena. It is the main square in Modena and also serves as the city’s historic center. You will find the piazza on the southern side of the Cathedral. Meanwhile, the eastern side of the church is where you will find the Town Hall building.


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Um er-Rasas (Kastrom Mefa’a)

UNESCO World Heritage Site #239: Um er-Rasas (Kastrom Mefa'a)
Um er-Rasas (Kastrom Mefa’a): My 239th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for Um er-Rasas (Kastrom Mefa’a):

Um er-Rasas (Kastrom Mefa’a) is strongly associated with monasticism and with the spread of monotheism, including Islam, throughout the region. The artistic and technical qualities of the mosaic floor of St Stephen’s church justify describing Um er-Rasas as a masterpiece of human creative genius. It also presents a unique and complete (therefore outstanding) example of stylite towers.
This is an archaeological site of the Roman, Byzantine and early Muslim periods. The site was founded in the 3rd century AD as a Roman military camp, closely associated with the frontier (limes) of the Roman Empire, the border with the desert and possibly with the eastern branch of the incense route.

The large camp (castrum) gave the site its ancient name – Kastron Mefa’a. The roughly square fortified castrum (about 50 m by 150 m is almost unexcavated. While the castrum itself became the core of the later settlement, the ruins of the Byzantine settlement outside it cover an area of about 200 m by 300 m.

Among the visible and partly excavated structures on the site are several churches. These can be easily identified before excavations and attracted the main attention of archaeologists working on the site since 1986. For this reason, much less is known of the character of housing, town plan, and daily life.

Among the extraordinary remains on the site are several mosaic floors, one of which of special importance. The mosaic floor of the Church of St Stephen shows an incredible representation of towns in Palestine, Jordan, and Egypt, including their identification. At a short distance from the town, a well-preserved tall tower from the Byzantine period is probably the only existing remain of a well-known practice in this part of the world – of the stylite ascetic monks (i.e. monks sitting in isolation for long periods on top of a column or tower). The tower has no stairs and is in a relatively isolated area.

Um er-Rasas (Kastrom Mefa’a) is surrounded and dotted with remains of ancient agricultural cultivation, from water reservoirs to terracing, water channels, dams, and cisterns. There are two small cemeteries on the site, one immediately to the west and the other to the east. The Eastern is an old Bedouin cemetery, whereas the Western is a modern one. About 150 m separate the site and the main modern north-south road.

In this area, there are several ruins of relatively new structures, from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century, but now abandoned.

Um er-Rasas (Kastrom Mefa’a)

Um er-Rasas is easily the least visited World Heritage Site in Jordan. It isn’t easy to get to. It isn’t on the way to somewhere else and it doesn’t get anything close to the visitors of a place like Petra. In fact, when I arrived there was no one else there. There was no one working the ticket window and the doors were wide open. Others who have visited have reported the same thing.

However, I found this site to be absolutely fascinating!

The primary reason for its listing is its incredibly well preserved mosaic floors. They are easily the largest and best-preserved mosaics I’ve ever seen. They are the remains of Byzantine church floors and there are several at the site. The largest one is the church of St. Stephen. It has been excavated and currently rests under a shelter to protect it from the elements. Many of the human images in the mosaics were destroyed during the Byzantine iconoclastic movement of the 8th century.

The rest of the site is almost entirely still buried in rubble. I’ve never before had the feeling of visiting something unexplored like I had here. You can literally walk over the buildings and look down on the arches which are still standing. I even found a shard of pottery laying on the ground! There is still an enormous amount to be discovered here. It is just a matter of funding.

Um er-Rasas (Kastrom Mefa’a) is approximately a 30-minute drive outside of the city of Madaba. Unlike the other world heritage sites of Jordan, I know of no regular tours which visit Um er-Rasas. You will probably need to hire a guide or rent a car to visit the site, but it is well worth it for those who are inquisitive.

Overview

Um er-Rasas (Kastrom Mefa’a)

Um er-Rasas is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Jordan. It was inscribed in 2004 as an archaeological site. The site contains the ruins of the early Muslim, Byzantine, and Roman civilizations in Jordan.

The location of the ruins is around 30 km southeast of Madaba. It served as the capital city of the Madaba governorate in central Jordan. The location of Um er-Rasas is in the midst of a semi-arid steppe region in the Jordanian desert. The site was even mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah. The most recent excavation at the site took place in 1986 but archaeologists believe there are more ruins as a large portion of the area is still covered in debris.

About Um er-Rasas

Um er-Rasas (Kastrom Mefa’a)

Um er-Rasas is a 5th century site that encompasses numerous ruins from the early Muslim, Byzantine, and Roman period. It is currently governed and managed by the Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities of Jordan, along with UNESCO since it was named as a World Heritage Site of cultural value.

Um er-Rasas served as an important pilgrimage site for Christians during the 8th century. There are pilgrims from all over the world who travel here in order to participate in pilgrimage activities. Some of the monks also inhabit the stone towers at the site. One of the towers measure up to 13 meters high. Um er-Rasas consists of 16 churches in total.

Um er-Rasas (Kastrom Mefa’a)

Despite the fact that the site consists of many archaeological ruins, expert archaeologists believe that there are more that are yet to be excavated. For 1200 years, the site is undisturbed and that can be credited to its excellent state of preservation and authenticity. There are a few notable features of the excavated part of the Um er-Rasas namely the Roman military camp, frontier camp of the Limus Arabicus, ‘Kastron Mefaa’, and numerous churches.

In addition to the structures that were excavated at the Um er-Rasas, the mosaic floor at the Byzantine Church of Saint Stephen is one of the most noteworthy finds. This mosaic is believed to be a map or representation of the cities in the region such as Madaba, Esbounta, Areopolis, Belemounta, Philadelphia, and more. The mosaic is dated to have originated in 785 even though the discovery did not take place until in 1986. The perfectly preserved mosaic floor is also the largest of its kind in Jordan. The mosaic floor’s central panel depicts fishing and hunting scenes. There are also four other churches within Um er-Rasas that were found to have mosaic decoration as well.


View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Jordan.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Oct 24, 2017 @ 6:49 pm

UNESCO World Heritage Site #238: Quseir Amra

UNESCO World Heritage Site #238: Quseir Amra
Quseir Amra: My 238th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for Quseir Amra:

Quseir Amra bears exceptional testimony to the Omayyad civilization which was imbued with a pre-Islamic secular culture whose austere religious environment only left behind insignificant traces in the visual arts. It is the best conserved architectural ensemble, if not the most complete, of all the Omayyad palaces and castles in Jordan and Syria.

Built in the early 8th century AD, this exceptionally well-preserved desert castle was both a fortress with a garrison and a residence of the Umayyad caliphs. The most outstanding features of this small pleasure palace are the reception hall and the hammam, both richly decorated with figurative murals that reflect the secular art of the time.

Approximately 85 km east of Amman and not far from the caravan trail which passes through Azrak, Kharaneh and Tubah, Quseir Amra is one of the many residences which the Omayyad caliphs built in the desert of present-day Syria and Jordan. These ‘castles of the desert’ had various roles. They were fortresses where garrisons could be lodged, on at least an occasional basis; they were places of relaxation where the caliphs could come back into contact with the traditional existence of Bedouin nomads. The fortress of Quseir Amra, square in shape, is in ruins with no thing more than the foundations remaining. But the small country house with its three-nave reception hall and hammam still exists with its extraordinary mural decorations. These murals, which were discovered by the Austrian, Alois Musil, in 1898 and made known in 1907, were restored by a team of Spanish specialist headed by the archaeologist, Martin Almagro.

Quseir Amra, which was probably built under Walled I (705-15), although a more recent theory suggests the reign of Walled II (743-44), is interesting first of all because of the remarkable architectural structure of the reception hall and also due to the existence of a very extensive bath complex. Supplied by a noria and an aqueduct, it resembles Roman baths with its three rooms: the changing-room (apodyterium), the warm bath (tepidarium) and the hot bath (caldarium), in addition to the service room.

What gives Quseir Amra its uniqueness, however, is the figurative painting on the walls and vaults of the reception hall and hammam. There are historical themes (royal figures who were defeated by the Omayyad caliph) and mythological representations as well (the muses of Poetry, Philosophy and History, with their names in Greek), a zodiac, hunting scenes and hammam scenes as well as some imaginary themes (animal musicians, a hunter being chased by a lion), etc.

Quseir Amra

Quseir Amra is not large. In fact when we pulled up to it and I had no idea we were there. Quseir is Arabic for “castle” so I was expecting something…..bigger.

What is there is actually the bath of what was believed to be the summer palace of Walid II, the Umayyad caliph. The original structure was believed to be much larger and the remains of which may still be unexcavated in the surrounding area.

The building itself is not why it was listed as a World Heritage Site. What makes Quseir Amra special are the well-preserved frescos inside. Unlike most Islamic buildings, the fresco designs are not simply geometric shapes. They show scenes of people and animals. The painter was mostly likely a Byzantine Christian who lived in the region.

Quseir Amra is approximately a one hour drive from Amman. Most visitors will not be visiting Quseir Amra as the primary destination, but rather as part of a day-long trip to several desert castles between Amman and Azraq. Quseir Amra is small enough that it can probably be experienced in 30 minutes, including the small visitor center.

Overview

Quseir Amra

Quseir Amra is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Jordan. It was inscribed in 1985 and is located in the Zarqa Governorate. The site is a desert castle that was built in 743 AD by Walid Ibn Yazid. This desert castle was built at the time when the dominance of the region was on the rise. This desert castle is recognized as one of the best examples of early Islamic architecture and art. Hence, it was added to the UNESCO list in order to preserve it as a cultural and historic emblem.

There were inscriptions that were discovered on the castle in 2012. This has facilitated in a more accurate dating of this structure to help researchers understand exactly how long this structure has existed.

About Quseir Amra

Quseir Amra

Quseir Amra is an early 8th century Umayyad structure or desert castle. It is best known for the well-preserved paintings and frescoes on its walls. The desert castle is located at a remarkably remote location in Amman, Jordan. This has therefore somewhat contributed to the excellent state of preservation of this structure. Aside from the structure itself, the frescoes are prized as it provides a glimpse into how the Byzantine and Islamic cultures combine to form unique art and architecture.

The Quseir Amra consists of triple arches and small domes that serve as some of the structure’s most compelling features. It also consists of triple-vaulted ceiling. These ornamentations of the structure serve to stand out in a rocky desert. Even though Quseir Amra seems isolated, it is not the only structure of its kind in the area. In fact, there are many other desert castles along the caravan route from Damascus and Mecca, which is the Islamic holy city.

Quseir Amra

The term Quseir Amra literally means ‘small palace of Amra’. It was built from 723 to 743. It served as the pleasure palace for Walid ibn Yazid who had commissioned for this palace to be built – an escape from the city life. Aside from Yazid, it was also used as retreat for the caliph or the princes. The interior frescoes at the desert castle provide a glimpse into the life of the earlier times in the region. These frescoes depict hunting scenes, portraits of rulers, map by the northern hemisphere sky, zodiac signs, fruits, musicians, bathing nude women, and more.

How to Get Here

Quseir Amra

To get to Quseir Amra, you can travel to Amman, Jordan. There are several international and domestic flights that fly to Amman, Jordan. From this city, you must drive for one hour east via Highway 40.

There are half-day or single-day trips available at this UNESCO site. These trips come with English-speaking tour guides. The site is open from 8 AM to 5 PM.


View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Jordan.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Oct 24, 2017 @ 5:58 pm