Ferrara, which grew up around a ford over the River Po, became an intellectual and artistic centre that attracted the greatest minds of the Italian Renaissance in the 15th and 16th centuries. Here, Piero della Francesca, Jacopo Bellini and Andrea Mantegna decorated the palaces of the House of Este. The humanist concept of the 'ideal city' came to life here in the neighbourhoods built from 1492 onwards by Biagio Rossetti according to the new principles of perspective. The completion of this project marked the birth of modern town planning and influenced its subsequent development.
Ferrara, City of the Renaissance, and its Po Delta
Justification for Inscription
Criterion (iii):The Este ducal residences in the Po Delta illustrate the influence of Renaissance culture on the natural landscape in an exceptional manner. Criterion (v): The Po Delta is an outstanding planned cultural landscape which retains its original form to a remarkable extent.
Ferrara is an outstanding planned Renaissance city which has retained its urban fabric virtually intact. The developments in town planning expressed in Ferrara were to have a profound influence on the development of urban design throughout the succeeding centuries. The brilliant Este court attracted a constellation of artists, poets and philosophers during the two seminal centuries of the Renaissance. The Po Delta is an outstanding planned cultural landscape which retains its original form to a remarkable extent.
Among the great Italian cities Ferrara is the only to have an original plan that is not derived from a Roman layout. It did not develop from a central area but rather on a linear axis, along the banks of the Po River, with longitudinal streets and many cross streets around which the medieval city was organized. The most significant characteristic of Ferrara's urban history rests on the fact that it developed from the 14th century onwards and, for the first time in Europe, on the basis of planning regulations that are in use nowadays in all modern towns. This type of development is known as addizione ; the third phase was implemented in 1492, making Ferrara the only planned Renaissance town to have been completed.
The street network and the enclosing walls are closely linked with the palaces, the churches, and the gardens. Throughout the 16th century the city was planned with the aim of making it a future 'capital'. Its evolution came to an end after the 17th century under papal administration, and the city did not undergo any extensions for almost three centuries. The city plan (1492) provided for doubling its area, an expansion limited to the south of the castle. This extension was completed by a new and very up-to-date defensive system made up of elements belonging to the various extensions carried out over several centuries (ramparts, keeps, semicircular towers, bastions, barbicans, etc.). These alterations completely changed the appearance of the city: new streets were created on a grid and buildings in a new style were built.
The most important monument surviving from the medieval period is the San Giorgio Cathedral dating back to the 12th century. The facade is a work of the master builder and sculptor Niccolo who, influenced by Benedetto Antelami, worked in the first half of the 12th century; the construction of the bell tower began in 1451 to a design attributed to Leon Battista Alberti. Standing in front of the cathedral, the 13th-century Palazzo Comunale was the first residence of the Este family and was joined in the late 15th century to the Castello di San Michele or Castello Estense. This massive, four-towered fortress was built in 1385 by the court architect Bartolomeo da Novara after a violent popular revolt. Works were carried out until 1570 with the creation of a noble residence with large halls to receive the court and embellished by frescoes and marble balconies and logge.
The Palazzo Schifanoia, built in 1385, was first remodelled in 1465-67 for Borso d'Este by the architect Piero Benvenuti degli Ordini assisted by the young Biagio Rossetti, who was responsible alone for the work in 1493. The palace has a long brick facade with a marble portal bearing the arms of the Commandery, the work of Ercole de' Roberti. It is, however, the decoration of the halls, and in particular of the Hall of the Months, which best illustrate the humanist culture of Ferrara.
The intersection of the streets coming from the castle (Corso Ercole I) and the main axis of Ercole 1a addizione (Corso Rossetti, Corso Porta Mare) linking two of the city gates is one of the most important elements in the 1492 city plan. This focal point, which links the modern and Renaissance city with the medieval, is underlined by four palaces: Palazzo Prosperi-Sacrati, Palazzo Bevilacqua, Palazzo Turchi-Di Bagno and Palazzo dei Diamanti. The construction of the Palazzo dei Diamanti began in 1492 for Sigismondo d'Este, but was not completed until 1565. The regular rustication over the entire height of the facades gives it a special appearance. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
At one time the lands Of Ferrara were crossed by the unstable water network of the Po and its meanders. The bed of the river that traversed the city moved several kilometres away in the 12th century, leaving behind no more than a modest stream, which disappeared In its turn in the 17th century.
Ferrara grew up along the banks of the Po on the Roman road leading to Padua round a ford. When threatened by the Huns, the Bishop of Voghenza moved his episcopal see to the right bank of the river and, to ensure his protection the exarchs of Ravenna built a fort on the opposite bank in the 8th century. A river port grew up on both banks round the fort and the bishop's establishment.
The Pope granted jurisdiction over the city to Tebaldo de Canossa in the 10th century and built the Castel Tebaldo on the left bank, to the west of the Byzantine fort. It spread between these two poles, along a street parallel to the river (the present-day Via delle Volte and via Ripagrande). At the beginning of the 12th century the city was in full growth and the commercial axis moved to the north, along a new highway (present-day Via Garibaldi and Via Mazzini), an ancient defensive line, to which new suburbs became attached.
This bipolar system of development was abandoned in the 12th century in favour of a single centre of which the cathedral was the pivot. The centre of communal power (Palazzo Communale, the Tower of the Lions which preceded the castle, and the quarter inhabited by the ruling class) collected around this monument, which was linked to the river by a network of perpendicular streets. Guglielmo II degli Adelardi organized the defences to the north of the town, an earthen bank protected by a ditch and eighteen towers, whilst to the south the river continued to provide natural protection. The city went on developing along both banks of the river until the House of Este came to power.
This family first came to prominence in the communal government of Ferrara at the end of the 12th century, but another century was to elapse before it became the arbiter of the city's fate. The pope appointed the family to rule the City in 1332, first as a marquisate and then as a duchy, a title retained until 1598. The Este family gave Ferrara a place among the states, both large and small, in Italy.
Niccolo II d'Este succeeded in consolidating the institutions of the domain, making it into a true principality. He gave special attention to matters relating to planning and in 1386 undertook the first of a series of extensions to the city (addizioni), all following the same lines. He enlarged the city by pushing the walls further away to the north. The open area created in this way became a quarter through the construction of a longitudinal axis street with streets opening out of it at right-angles and so linking with the existing street pattern. Niccolo invited his loyal supporters to move into this Quarter, which became centre of the city's elite.
During the difficult period for the Italian states at the beginning of the 15th century Niccolo III d'Este (1393-1441) followed a skillful policy. He received the popes John XXII and Martin v and hosted the Ecumenical Council of 1438. The arrival at the court of the Veronese humanist Guarino Guarini conferred prestige upon Ferrara. He was made responsible for the education of the young Leonello, destined to succeed Niccolo III as Duke (1441-50>. The new impetus that he gave to the university, founded in 1391, attracted many men Of letters and scientists, who gave form to the Renaissance culture of Ferrara.
Borso d'Este (1450-71), Leonello's younger brother, modernized the administrative structure of the state; he was made Duke of Modena and Reggio, and followed in Leonello's footsteps in cultural matters. He repeated Niccolo II's experiment by creating the second addizione on the same lines (1450>, reserving this Quarter in the south-east of the city for merchants.
The long alliance between Ferrara and the Venetian Republic was brought to an end by Ercole I (1433- 1505), who moved closer to France. His wife, Eleanora of Aragon, and their daughters Isabella and Beatrice played an important part in the political life of the Duchy and its relations with Naples and the neighbouring Duchies of Mantua and Milan. In 1492 he began the largest and most famous addizione in Ferrara as protection against venice. The work was carried out by the architect Biagio Rossetti, assisted by Pellegrino Prisciani. Working with Alessandro Biondo he extended the defensive walls on the north of the city, whose area was doubled. In this enormous new area he applied the plan that had already been tried in the earlier addizioni. However, Biagio Rossetti used perspective in defining urban space. The main street, which linked the castle with the villas and parks to the north continued to be a private road for the princely family, along which faithful supporters built their palazzi.
Conflict with Venice continued under Alfonso I (1476-1534), along with a dispute with Pope Julius II, who wanted to govern the Papal States directly. Relations with the Papacy became more complicated under Alfonso II, whose mother, Renee of France, protected persecuted Calvinists. In 1557 he began to introduce the principle of bastions into the city's fortifications. On his death in 1597 the Este family left Ferrara for Modena, and pope Clement VIII took back possession of the City, which became a distant province of the Papal States. The economic situation of the city deteriorated, with the walls being attacked by flooding from time to time and the countryside becoming impoverished. Nevertheless, a pentagonal fortress was built in 1608 to the south-east of the city (it was demolished after 1869).
Attempts to relaunch the economy Of Ferrara in the 18th century by creating a canal to link up with the PO and a new port did not have the effects anticipated. In 1796 the city was occupied by the French, who made it part of the Cisalpine Republic. Ferrara was occupied again by the French in the 19th century, and then by the Austrians. When it became part ofthe Kingdom of Italy in 1859 major reclamation works began on the marshlands, the city's gates were enlarged, and new infrastructure was added (railway, hospitals, etc). Damage during World War II was limited.
In the 15th-16th centuries the Este court was one of the main centres for the development and practical application of the new humanism in Italy. From the end of the reign of Niccolo III (1393-1441) it became an artistic centre where the greatest artists of the day were invited to decorate the palazzi and villa (delizie) of the Este family, both in the city itself and in the neighborhood - artists SUCh as Piero della Francesca (1499), Jacopo Bellini (1441), Mantegna (1449), and Roger van der Weyden (who brought the Flemish technique in 1449). Cosme Tura (1430-95), whose style was developed by Francesco del Cossa and Ercole de' Roberti, founded the Ferrara school of painting.
Ferrara also played host to great humanists such as Pietro Bombo (1470-1547), who dedicated Gli Asolani to Lucrezia Borgia, wife of Alfonso I, and poets such as 80iardo (1441-94), Ariosto (1474-1533), and Tasso (1544-95), the creators of a new form of Italian poetry, the epic and the commedia dell'arte. The poetic dreams of Ariosto were given material form in the development of the concept of the Italian Renaissance garden. The Barco, the hunting reserve Of the Este family to the north of the town, which was divided into several sectors according to function (zoological garden, giardino dei semplici or herb garden, ancestor of the botanical garden), was a model for the Villa d'Este at Tivoli and the Villa Taranto on Lake Maggiore.
The university, founded in 1391, was the scene of important scientific developments. Copernicus (1473) and Paracelsus (1493-1541) were among the famous scientists who studied or taught there.
Source: Advisory Body Evaluation