From Academic Kids

Urbino is a city in the Marche in Italy, southwest of Pesaro, a World Heritage Site with a great cultural history during the Renaissance as the seat of Federico da Montefeltro. It has retained some of its picturesque medieval aspect on steep sloping ground, though tourists' carparks occupy the former fields below. Urbino is home to the University of Urbino, founded in 1564, and is the seat of the Archbishop of Urbino (see below). Its great urbanistic feature is the Palazzo Ducale, rebuilt by Luciano Laurana, an architect from Dalmatia.



The modest Roman town of Urvinum Mataurense ("the little city on the river Mataurus") became an important strategic stronghold in the Gothic wars of the 6th century, captured in 538 from the Goths by the champion of the Emperor of the East, Belisarius, and frequently mentioned by the Byzantine historian Procopius. Though Pippin presented Urbino to the Papacy, independent traditions were expressed in its commune, until, around 1200 it came into the possession of the fighting nobles of nearby Montefeltro. They had no direct authority over the commune, but could pressure the commune to elect them podest (potestas, "power") as Bonconte di Montefeltro managed in 1213, with the result that the Urbinese rebelled, formed an alliance with the independent commune of Rimini (1228), and by 1234 were masters of the city again. In the struggles between Guelf and Ghibelline factions, associated with individual families and cities, rather than the struggle between Hohenstaufen emperors and the Papacy as they had been, the 13th and 14th century Montefeltro lords of Urbino were leaders of the Ghibellines of the Marche and in the Romagna.

The most famous member of the Montefeltro was Federico, lord of Urbino 1444 to 1482, an oustandingly successful condottiere, a skillful diplomat and an enthusiastic patron of art and literature. At his court Piero della Francesca wrote on the science of perspective, Francesco di Giorgio Martini his Trattato di architettura ("Treatis on Architecture") and Raphel's father Giovanni Santi his poetical account of the chief artists of his time. Federico's brilliant court, through the descriptions in Baldassare Castiglione's Il Cortegiano ("The Book of the Courtier"), set standards of what characterized a "gentleman" in early modern Europe that were still a propos in World War I. (See Federico da Montefeltro for full biography.)

Missing image
Duke Francesco della Rovere in courtly armour, painted by the Urbino artist Federico Barocci in 1572

Cesare Borgia dispossessed Guidobaldo da Montefeltre, duke of Urbino, and Elisabetta Gonzaga in 1502, with the connivance of his Papal uncle. After the Medici pope Leo X's brief attempt to establish a young Medici as duke, thwarted by the early death of Lorenzo II de' Medici in 1519, Urbino remained part of the Papal States under a dynasty of Della Rovere dukes. In 1626 Pope Urban VIII incorporated the independent Duchy of Urbino into the papal dominions, the gift of the weary last Della Rovere duke in retirement after the assassination of his heir, to be governed by the archbishop. Its great library was removed to Rome and added to the Vatican Library in 1657. The later history of Urbino is part of the history of the Papal States and, after 1870, of the History of Italy.

Archbishops of Urbino

The first known bishop in Urbino was Leontius, made Bishop of Rimini by Gregory the Great in 592. The cathedral was not permitted within the walls by the independent-spirited commune until 1021, under Bishop Theodoricus. Among a long list of bishops of interest within the Roman Catholic Church, Oddone Colonna (1380), later reigned as Pope Martin V. In 1563 Pius IV made the see metropolitan, that is independent of Rimini, with its own suffragans, or assistant bishops at Cagli, Sinigaglia, Pesaro, Forssombrone, Montefeltro, and Gubbio.


The clay earth of Urbino, which still supports industrial brickworks, supplied a cluster of earthenware manufactories (botteghe) making the tin-glazed pottery known as maiolica. Simple local wares were being made in the 15th century at Urbino, but after 1520 the Della Rovere dukes, Francesco Maria della Rovere and his successor Guidobaldo II, encouraged the industry, which exported wares throughout Italy, first in a manner called istoriato using engravings after Mannerist painters, then in a style of light arabesques and grottesche after the manner of Raphael's stanzi at the Vatican. Other centers of 16th century wares in the Duchy of Urbino were at Gubbio and Castel Durante. The great name in Urbino majolica was that of Nicolo Pillipario's son Guido Fontana

Luciano Laurana and the Palazzo Ducale

The Ducal Palace was rebuilt for duke Federico da Montefeltro by Luciano Laurana, an architect from Dalmatia who had seen Brunelleschi's cloisters in Florence. The light and noble arcaded courtyard at Urbino rivals that of the Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome as the finest of the Renaissance. Overcoming the exigencies of the clifflike site, which made an irregular massing of architecture necessary, from the 1460s onwards Laurana created what contemoraries considered the ideal princely dwelling. In high plain stuccoed rooms, the richly sculptured doorways, chimneys and friezes stand apart, executed by Domenico Rosselli of Florence, Ambrogio d'Antonio of Milan and their workshops. The beautifully executed intarsia work of the Duke's small study (the Studiolo), with trompe-l'oeil shelves and half-open latticework doors display symbolic objects representing the Arts, is the single most famous example of this Italian craft of inlay.

The palace continued in use as a government building into the 20th century, housing municipal archives and offices, and public collections of antique inscriptions, of sculpture, and the paintings gallery, including works by Paolo Uccello, Giovanni Santi, Justus of Ghent (a Last Supper with portraits of the Montefeltro family and the court), Timoteo della Vite, and other i5th-century artists, and a late Resurrection by Titian.

Urbino as a city of art

Donato Bramante was born nearby, and witnessed Laurana's work going up while he was a youth. Raphael Santi was also born at Urbino, where his family's house is a museum-shrine. Others from Urbino: Bartolommeo Carusi, theologian and professor at Bologna and Paris; Federico Commandini (1509), mathematician; Bernardino Baldi (1533 — 1617), mathematician and writer; Polydore Vergil or Virgil (c. 1470 - 1555), chronicler in Englanca:Urbino de:Urbino fr:Urbino it:Urbino ja:ウルビーノ pt:Urbino sv:Urbino


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