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Palazzo dell'Orologio

Palazzo dell'Orologio

The Palazzo dell'Orologio now contains the Library of the Scuola Normale Superiore. Its current aspect is the result of transformations which took place one after another from the Middle Ages up to the 20th century.

The two main structures already existed in the Middle Ages and were connected from the beginning by a vault. On the left there was the tower-house called the Palazzotto della Giustizia or del Capitano, seat of the magistrates of Pisa, and on the right there was the tower, called dei Gualandi or “moulting”. This name refers to the eagle, symbol of the power of Pisa and its figurative “changing of the feathers” as power structures changed. But the tower was especially known as the Torre della Fame because of the tragic death of Count Ugolino which took place there and was recounted by Dante in Canto XXXIII of the Inferno.

In the 16th century, while work was feverishly going ahead on the Palazzo della Carovana, the Palazzo dell'Orologio was only restored and adapted to be used as an infirmary, directed by the so-called “Buon Uomo” (Good Man) from whom the building temporarily took its name.

The building took on its coherent form in 1605-1608. The Torre della Fame was enclosed in the rest of the structures on the right, and the two parts of the building were connected by a passageway over the vault. The façade was decorated with frescoes by Giovanni Stefano Maruscelli and Filippo and Lorenzo Paladini using iconography suggested by the General Curator of the Order of Knights, Rodolfo Sirigatti. The cycle of frescoes celebrated the Medicis' good government with the allegories of Peace, Earth, Abundance, Intelligence, Glory and Nations. Most frescoes have been lost.

The small bell tower was added in 1696. It accentuated the vertical axis of a symmetrical façade which had been opportunely applied over the united structures, hiding the original irregularities.

Until 1804 the building was used as a residence for elderly knights and as an infirmary. From 1808 to 1810 it passed under French domination and then into state domain and was then sold to private owners. In 1919 it was purchased by Count Baly-Alberto della Gherardesca, who restored it once again, with the addition of the four neo-medieval lancet windows on the left side of the façade.