Anne's Blog

In Todi’s Piazza del Popolo, a Union of Medieval and Contemporary Art

Date: November 10, 2021 - categories: - Leave your thoughts

When you come out of Todi’s Duomo, the Piazza del Popolo spreads out before you like a medieval stage set:

Opposite the Duomo is the primary seat of civic power, the mid-14th-century Palazzo dei Priori – where the civic magistrates, i priori, governed in the Middle Ages and some of Todi’s  city officials have their offices now.

The palazzo is crowned with battlements representing the Guelfs, those aligning with Papal power in the Middle Ages and the trapezoidal tower was added in the mid-14th-century.

In October, during the celebrations of patron saint, San Fortunato, the banners of the six rioni (districts or neighborhoods) are draped from the windows….

….just below the mid-14th-century bronze eagle, wings outspread, symbol of Todi:

The eagle is the protagonist in Todi’s coat-of-arms – and grasps the tablecloth in its claws, linked to the founding of Todi in an ancient legend:

In the middle ages, Todi’s three elected priori lived and worked in this palazzo during their six months in office.

To the left of the Palazzo dei Priori, a pair of majestic civic palazzi flank Todi’s main square, this Piazza del Popolo.

Just behind the stairs, the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo (Palace of the Captain of the People – the official maintaining public  order in the Middle Ages) – built in 1240 – rises above an impressive vaulted portico.

Bringing light into the building are three elegant trim-lobed mullioned Gothic windows of medieval Venetian style –

…and reminiscent of those on Palazzo dei Priori in Perugia:

Reliefs of coats-of-arms are sculpted in limestone above and below the windows.

The stairs lead up to the spacious Sala del Capitano embellished with 14th-century frescoes, where the Capitano once presided over gatherings:

The civic palace next door – the Palazzo del Popolo – was built in Gothic-Lombard style in 1213 on low porticoes and is graced at the top by battlements in the Ghibelline style (the Ghibellines supported civic authority the Holy Roman Emperor). The red banner draped below the upper windows indicates the location of Todi’s Museo Civico:

The room behind the green banner draped below the windows opening in the palazzo at the top of the stairs, is la Sala delle Pietre (“Hall of Stones”).  This vast room was significantly restored in 2016 and is now Todi’s most prestigious site for shows and expositions.

A series of additions and restorations had changed the structure of palazzo since the 14th century.  Fragments of frescoes decorate the walls including the coat-of-arms of the  mid-13th-century podesta’ (mayor) Savelli who had commissioned the work on the palazzo. 

From the late 17th-century until the late 19th-century, the ambience hosted the teatro. Major restoration work was undertaken in the very early 20th-century and at that time,  the notable lapidary collection – started in the 17th-century –  of the city of Todi was displayed here: hence, the name of the room.

We had first seen visited the Sala delle Pietre in December 2018 when we were invited to the show of noted American sculptor (for years living in Italy), Beverly Pepper: “Beverly Pepper, Tra Todi e il Mondo” (“Beverly Pepper, Between Todi and the World”)
Our daughter Giulia, then working for this esteemed sculptor, had sent us the invitation:

On December 8th, the first of a fabulous series of events, that will mark the history of contemporary art in Italy: an exhibition of unpublished photographs, sculptures from the artist’s private collection and the model of the Beverly Pepper Sculpture Park (opening next September in Todi) will be held in the majestic Sala Delle Pietre in the medieval town hall.”

Born in 1922, Beverly Pepper and her noted journalist husband Curtis Bill Pepper had chosen Italy as their place of residence in 1951 and Todi for many years.

Beverly Pepper once synthesized the inspiration for art:  “It is in the monumental art of Rome and the variable skies of Umbria my inspiration for my art.”

The model of that Beverly Pepper Sculpture Park (inaugurated in September 2019) was backdropped by a photo taken in 1970 when the Four Columns had stood in the Piazza del Popolo just outside the civic palace.

Other Pepper sculptures were displayed nearby, also backdropped by the photo

Pino, our Giulia and I stopped for a photo at my favorite Beverly Pepper sculpture,  “Embrace”

It was one of the nineteen sculptures Beverly Pepper donated to Todi as part of the Beverly Pepper Sculpture Park:

Her 1967 piece, “Ingresso,”  (“Entrance”) was there, too…:

….and also would later be part of her donation to Todi in the Beverly Pepper Sculpture Park:

We complimented the artist, though not easily for the elderly Beverly Pepper, was surrounded by her admirers:

Roman friend Silvana and American friend, Frank joined Pino, Giulia and our son, Keegan that day.

Those same friends – and others – would be with us in September for the inauguration of the Beverly Pepper Sculpture Park.

Beverly Pepper’s brief bio is here

Read here about the Beverly Pepper exhibit inaugurated in the civic palace, the Palazzo del Capitano

Read more here about Beverly Pepper

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