The “Palazzo Comunale” of San Gimignano

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.


Temple of Jerusalem: first time destroyed in 587 BC by Nebuchadnezzar , king of Babylon. Later rebuilt and destroyed once again during the Roman siege led by the emperor Titus in 70 AD.  Demolished a third time by the emperor Hadrian in 135 AD, when this destroyed Judea and exterminated the Jews.

Serapeum of Alexandria: temple dedicated to the deity Serapis, built in the 3rd century BC. Respected for its importance, and preserved by some of the Roman emperors (Hadrian rebuilt it after its destruction during wars). It was later destroyed again around 391 AD by Christian Patriarch Theophilos (according to one of the possible versions of the events).

Pantheon, Rome: Pope Boniface IV turns it into a Christian church in 609 AD; this saved it from destruction, but not from being raided of its bronze and of its external decorations  (bronze was melted and reused in the 17th century by Pope Urban VIII Barberini to produce cannons to defend Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome, and for San Peter’s Baldachin by the artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini; in the same way the pope reused the stones of the Colosseum to build the Barberini Palace).

Parthenon, Athens: 1687, during the war between Christians and Turks, the Venetian troops of Francesco Morosini blew up the Parthenon to show the Turks (who had been in control of the city for two centuries) that Venice was stronger; so they destroyed the city’s most precious symbol.

Palmyra: 2015. During the civil war in Syria, ISIS destroys the historical monuments of the archeological site of Palmyra, to eliminate every single trace of paganism, beheading also the guardian and head of antiquities of the site.

These are just a few of the upsetting examples of human action. As humans, we consider ourselves the most excellent and perfect among animals; we are the only ones to own the power of speech; we are the most intelligent creatures. Well, history shows rather the opposite.. after millenniums we prove to have learned absolutely nothing, and we keep on committing the same fanatical acts. We can be Christians, Jewish, Buddhists, Islamic, or atheists, but we are all ignorant fanatics the moment we destroy a symbol of the past. Since ancient times, blind ignorance and rage have been leading man to attempt to cancel other communities with other religions, not only by exterminating their inhabitants, but also by destroying all the buildings related to their worship. And we say “attempt” because reality is, there is no way to make man change his worship, not even by destroying his city (it rather seems that this way leads to the opposite result).

Continue reading