In the heart of the historic center of San Gimignano, in the central Piazza Duomo (Cathedral Square), is the Palazzo Comunale (Municipal Palace), also known as Palazzo del Popolo (“Palace of the People”) or Palazzo Nuovo del Podestà (“New Palace of the Chief Magistrate”). It stands between the Torre Grossa to the right (“Big Tower”- with its 54 meters is the tallest tower of San Gimignano, built between 1300 and 1311), and the Loggia del Comune to the left. The palace was built between 1289 and 1298 on the remains of a preexisting building, and it was enlarged during the 14th and 15th centuries. From its construction until today, the palace has been the house of the Municipality of San Gimignano and since 1852 also the seat of the Civic Museum.
The Painting Gallery on the 2nd floor preserves important artworks by Florentine and Sienese artists from the 13th to the 16th century; among the most famous: Coppo di Marcovaldo, Benozzo Gozzoli, Filippino Lippi and Pinturicchio.
Among the various rooms of the palace, on the first floor is the hall of the Council, also known as “Hall of Dante”, to honor the poet Dante Alighieri who was here in 1300. He came to the city as ambassador of the Florentine Republic to create a Tuscan Guelph League, with the purpose of uniting all the supporters of the Guelph Party and fight the Ghibelline enemy.
Inside the room is a fresco cycle of the late 13th century attributed to a Florentine painter, Azzo di Masetto, and it represents tournaments of knights and hunting scenes dedicated to Charles of Anjou, who is depicted sitting on the throne on the wall in front of the entrance, while some personalities pay homage to him presenting a falcon. On the right wall is the magnificent Maestà (“Madonna Enthroned”) by Lippo Memmi of 1317, inspired by that of his brother-in-law Simone Martini in the Palazzo Pubblico of Siena: Mary is represented sitting on a throne, surrounded by angels and saints.