Prato, a comune square, made at the end of the thirtieth century at the crossroad of two main roads, is the ideal and geometrical centre of the town.
Comune square, made at the end of the thirtieth century at the crossroad of two main roads, is the ideal and geometrical centre of the town. It is also the political centre with the Comune Palace ( or of the "Priori") and the People's Palace (or "Pretorio").Since the beginning the square was seat of the grain market and the butchers' stands, but also the most important events took place there.
On the northern side of the square we see the building of the Municipality, made of different parts dating back to various periods; its late eighteenth century aspect is due to the architect G. Valentini (1791) from Prato. The short section of the building was used as a residence of the magistrates of the Town since early 1300s.
Inside are kept several frescoes by Pietro da Miniato, of the late fourteenth century, wooden furniture and decorations dating from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century, and a rich collection of paintings ( Picture Gallery ).
On the opposite side we find the huge Palazzo Pretorio, restored in 1284, once belonging to the Pipini family, seat of the republican government and of the courts of justice: it was built on the site of the "Sciampio"(a yard) and, later, the "Cantone" or "Platea filiorum Pipini".
The octagonal basin with small angular tanks was re-built in 1789; the original by Tacca with the elegant sea shapes, and child Bacco on it, is kept in the entrance of the Comune Palace. At the centre of the square there is the XX century's copy.
The Pretorio Palace, imposing medieval building, is one of the most wonderful public palaces of Central Italy. Its structure is composed in part by white alberese stone of late Gothic epoch, decorated with elegant mullioned windows with two lights testify a lot amplification in different epoches.
Its structure is composed in part by white alberese stone of late Gothic epoch, decorated with elegant mullioned windows with two lights testify a lot amplification in different epoches. In the second half of the fourteenth century the tile part was probably made still higher loading to the palace level and realizing in the corner a tower now disappeared; an inside stairs (re-made in the sixteenth-century) and a clock completed the building that gave hospitality to the foreign magistratures.
Similarly to the public palaces of other Medieval communes of the central- northern Italy, also the Pretorio Palace was adorned with familiar coats of arms of podestà and vicars, with stone but also with marble and terra-cotta, disposed along the external walls of the square.
The small "a vela" bell tower with emblatted completion on the northern prospect was realized in XVI century. At the ground floor the portal takes in wide rooms where we can fin some frescoes (Bettino of Corsino (1307), Pietro and Antonio of Miniato (1425), while the external stairs load to the first floor.
Since 1912 it gave hospitality to the Civic Museum , still closed for restoration.
Duomo - S. Stefano Cathedral
The work of widening and renovation of the "Pieve" (probably dated back to the V century) started about in the middle of XII century, changed the simple original building in one of the most important Romanesque-Gothic churches in Tuscany.
The beautiful romanesque closter, modified in the XV century, goes back to the second half of XII century.
The churchtower was realized probably on a project by Guidetto from Como in the beginnine of 1200, and was completed with a three light window in 1356-1357.
At the same time as the building of the Holy Waste's Chapel in 1386, the construction of the current late gothic front by Lorenzo di Filippo started. The front has a basament in alberese material as also the made upper part. However, it was completed only in the next century in which also the great portal with a decorated lunette by glasswindow terra-cotta of Andrea della Robbia and the outsider pulpit of Donatello (the original of the parapet is how in the Museum of "Opera del Duomo") were built.
In spite of a great number of intervations in the centuries the building preserves a stylistics unity: inside the transsept by Giovanni Pisano (1317-1368) is well situated in the plant formed by three aisles with apses on the peak, subdivided in six arcades for each side (dated back to the beginning of the XIII century), while the pulpit as globet (XV century), by Nino da Fiesole and Antonio Rossellino, is similar to that one by Donatello.
Among the most beautiful works of art contained in the done there are famous cycles of frescos: the stories of S. Stephen and S. Giovanni Battista (where "Herod's banquet" with the dancing Salomè is striking).They were made by Filippo Lippi and his collaborators (1452-65) and they decorate Main Chapel.. The stories of the Virgin Mary and of the Holy Waste (1392-95) by Agnolo Gaddi and his workshop in the Holy Girdle Chapel, and the stories of the Virgin Mary and S. Stefano concordatly assigned to Paolo Uccello 1397-1475) in the Assunta Chapel.
We remember also the precious sculptoral work like "Madonna dell'ulivo" tabernacle, (1480) by Giuliano brothers Giovanni and Benedetto da Maiano; "Holy Mother with Her Child" by Giovanni Pisano and the beautiful bronze crucified on the altar (1653) by Ferdinando Tacca.
S. Domenico's Church and Convent
S. Domenico Convent is monument complex al that covers the most importance in the historical centre of Prato, for its location and role.
The primitive building was erected probably in 1282 and its construxtion continued till 1325, under the direction and the superintendence of the Dominican Fra Mazzetto, from 1300 to 1310. The bell with various vicissitudes tower was built in 1313.
The medieval front of the church was covered only in the lower part with limestone and the green of Prato, while the higher part is in simple brickwork, with a chromatic contrast of an undoubtd efficacy. On the broad side there is a great doorway: Vasari asserted that this portal was built by Giovanni Pisano.
On top of the doorways of the church are visible two armonial bearings surmounted by a cardinal's hat, this indicates the important work that the cardinal Niccolò Albertini commissioned, and thank to the testamentary bequests the church was built.
In contrast with the medieval exterior there is the internal seventeeth century structure. The wide nave is formed by ten great aedicule altars organized by niches with a barrel vault.The baroque choir stalls tu golden and laquered wooden and the overhanging organ, with big golden angels are considerable.
Among artworks is kept a crucified of the XIV century, an Annunciation of Matteo Rosselli (1578-1650), one of the major artist at the court of Grand Duke, and the ornaments of the chapeles.
In the heart of '400 there was amplification of the nearby Convent with the building (1478-1480) of the beautiful Renaissance cloister, costituited by elegant and ionic columnes with the forces of datini, wich confirm the financial intervention of the institution of Ceppo.
In the est a the side of the cloister, near the church the Sacristy is the most ancient as foundation because there is a fortheenth century fresco that is still kept. Is shows a Crucified with at its feer S. ludovico from Tolosa and the prayer Cardinal N. Albertini.
Instead the room of capitolo is dated back to the beginning of '400. It is decorated by contemporary frescos with the Stories of S. Domenico. On the southern there were all the workshops and the Infirmary.
Fromthe cloister you can go to the Mural Museum. Today it is dedicated to the lasting show of Immagini del Sacro
Monastery of S. Vincenzo and S. Caterina de' Ricci
It was constructed in 1732 on the occasion of Caterina de' Ricci's beatification. She is a saint from Prato (1522-1590) who lived in the near Dominican monastery.
Considerable the contrast between the simplicity of the outside and the richeness of decorations inside the church that were inspirited by the baroque style. Some of the most important works are: "Madonna with Child" (rilief of the 15th century in marble by Matteo Civitali) and the miracle of the embrace of the crucifix by Girolamo Ticciati.
Conservatory and Monastery of St. Niccolò
The Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo ordered the change of S. Niccolo's Monastery in Conservatory to Giuseppe Valentini (1752-1833) for whom the architect from Prato planned the back facade. In the inside he planned the hall, the big winding staircase and the wide delegation rooms with complex decorations, like "all' etrusca" environment in the Aurora's room.
The most ancient side of the Monastery (founded in about 1321) is made up of the refectory with frescos of Tommaso di Piero (1490) the fiftheenth- century Cloister, the 16 th century Room of Capitolo and the Chapel of Spina (redecorated in 1700).
The church still Keeps the original 14 th century Portal, on " alberese" and green serpentine, that combines gothic elements with others of late-romanisquare style.
In the "Orto di Gosto" , where we can enter from the Closter of the Monastery, there is one of the few examples in Italy of Holy Staircase like model of that which is in Rome, in the S. Giovanni in Laterano's church.
The typical architectural structure of the Holy Staircase is made up of an upper Chapel. The Calvary is accessible from a frontal scenographical stairtway, from two lateral short step laddes and from an underneath chapel.
The Holy Straircase will be fit in the Jubilee route and will be at disposal of pilgrims and belrvers in a chain of special dates, in particular on lent fridays in 2000.
The Palazzo Datini was the famous trader Francesco di Marco Datini's house (Prato 1335-1410).
The first nucleus of the building was a house bought by Datini in 1354 and immediatly submitted to restoration works. Around 1390 the house was entrusted to the painter Niccolò di Piero Gerini and his workshop for pictorial and interior decoration with frescoes. This artist made the San Cristoforo (1394) and the cycle of frescoes painted in the yard. In the same period the halls where decorated by artists like Agnolo Gaddi, Niccolò Gerini, Bartolomeo di Bertozzo and Tommaso del Mazza.
The principal prospect is along Ser Lapo Mazzei Street. We enter from the main gate to a corridor that introduces in the hall of audiences. At the end there is the yard with a well and a portico with two naves.
The second portal on via Ser Lapo Mazzei takes to the Archivio di Stato* where there are important archivistic founds and the whole Archivio Datini: it is the richest and most complete collection of correspondence and mercantile registers in the world. It is a fundamental source of economic history in the high middle-ages.
S. Francesco's Church
In 1228 the Town Council of Prato presented the Minor Friars with a land where they built a little church and a priory on the right of the present church. The building works started at the beginning of 1281; it was the most important religious building in Prato, made mostly in terracotta tiles, because they were less expensive than Alberese: this material was used with the green marble of Prato for the basement and the external Romanesque gothic façade, which was completed with Reinassance elements like the paintings around the "eye" and the big triangular tympanum, attributed by someone to Giuliano from Sangallo.
In the interior of the church there is a long nave with a final choir; in this part the nave is covered with wooden trusses, re-decorated at the beginning of the twentieth century. On the floor, opposite the high altar, there is the tombstone of Francesco, Marco Datini's son; it was made in 1411 - 12 by the Florentine sculptor and architect Niccolò Lamberti (called the " Pela"); near the altar there is a beautiful pulpit of the XV century.
From the right gate of the church we arrive to the cloister, one of the first examples of renaissance architecture in Prato; on the eastern side opens the Migliorati Chapel, or "Capitolo", built in 1300s: at the beginning of 1400 its walls were frescoed by Niccolò Gerini (1368-1415) with stories of St. Matthew Apostle, St. Anthony the Abbot and a Crucifixion.
On the south side of the cloister there is the entrance to the priory: it was renewed but it still shows some beautiful rooms dating back to the early fortieth century.
The Emperor's Castle is the most remarkable testimony in north - central Italy of the architectural school developing around the fascinating personality of Frederick II (1194 - 1250), Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, of the Swabian Hohenstaufen family. he building is supposed to have been erected in the years 1242 -1248. The architect Riccardo from Lentini, already famous for the building of some castles in Sicily, cooperated with Frederick from Antiochia (son of Frederick II) in its construction.
The structure is based on four main towers in square shape whose vertexes indicate the cardinal points.Frederick's death and the decline of the imperial politics in Tuscany prevented the completion of the interior of the castle: in the following periods the space was used according to different needs (barracks or later military prison).
The castle was restored in the thirties of this century.
In the materials used we find the same taste for the two-colour decoration adopted in Romanesque - gothic architecture in Tuscany, even for church buildings: the "alberese" in white or light grey, and the "serpentine" or green from Prato.
A gate on the eastern side connected the castle, trough a walking elevated path (Cassero), to the defence walls of Porta Fiorentina.A winding staircase in alberese takes to the bay from where you enjoy a wide view on the landscape in the direction of Florence and the Montalbano.
Since 1975 the Emperor's Castle has been open to visitors and in the large inner yard public events take place.
Opening time: October-March 9.00-13.00, April-September 9.00-13.00 / 16.00-19.00. Closed on Tuesday, on Sundays and public holidays.
The Basilica of Santa Maria delle Carceri
The building of the Marian sanctuary was decided as a consequence of the prodigious events that happened at the end of the XV century around a picture of "Madonna with Child", painted outside of the "Prison of the Stinche", that aroused an immediate popular devotion.
At the beginning the project was committed to Giuliano da Maiano but, Later on, Lorenzo de' Medici interrupted the work committing it to Giuliano da Sangallo for a new project. G. da Sangallo realized a masterpiece of symmetry.
The works started in 1486 and finished in 1495, left however unfinished the external cover, that has the traditional two-colour print (green of Prato and alberese) in original forms that can be seen also in florentines works (Santa Maria Novella, San Miniato and The Baptistery). Its serpentino's fillets divide the spaces according to harmonious proportions and underline also the elegant doors surmounted by gables.
In the inside part the basilique structure, Greek cross with central dome, shows clear references to the architecture of Alberti and Brunelleschi.
The trabeation is decored with a frieze in glazed earthenware by Andrea della Robbia (1491) who realized also the four rounds with figures of the evagelists placed in the pendentives of the dome.
The beautiful windows visible on the head of four arms of the church, that represent l'Annunciazione, la Natività, l'Assunta, la Visitazione, were made on draw by Domenico Ghirlandaio.
On the main altar and fraimed by a canvas of the painter from Prato Antonio Marini (1788-1861). The miracolous fresco of the "Madonna with Child " between the saints Leonardo and Stefano is conserved. It is dated at the first half of '300.