Piazza del Popolo, Ascoli Piceno, Province of Ascoli Piceno, Marche, Italy
The Palazzo dei Capitani del Popolo: The Palazzo, the seat of the authorities that in turn ruled the town, as can be seen today was built in the 13th century, and substantially renovated in 1520 by architect Cola dell'Amatrice, who also authored the facade of the Renaissance basilica of St. Benardine of Siena, in L'Aquila, Abruzzo. Actually, however, as the recent restoration works have shown, under the present palace there were Roman and early medieval constructions. The front facade, in travertine stone has an inscription to the right of the main entrance, with a date, 1393, and the name of the first captain, Giacomo de Fortiguerra from Pistoia. In December 1535 a group of rioters took refuge in the palace, and the Pope's commissioner ordered the palace to be set on fire, destroying an invaluable archive of documents. Soon after a renovation of the facade added the wonderfully sculpted portal, a monument to Paul III who had suppressed the revolt and brought back peace to Ascoli, and a huge stone clock. The portal leads into the Renaissance courtyard, surrounded by arcades and lodges, a design of architect Camillo Merli. A visit to the palace offers an insight into the different layers of the construction, from the republican era of Rome, to the empire, to the medieval period and finally the Renaissance project.
The Church of San Francesco: The church was begun in 1238, and according to the tradition commemorated a visit by St. Francis to Ascoli in 1215. The construction went on for over 2 hundred years and consecration was in 1371; the original project was by Antonio Vipera, though the tower overlooking the Piazza del Popolo was added only in 1461; in 1521 Lombard Giovanni "Bozo" started the vaults of the naves, which were previously covered by a simple roof, and the dome was built in the late 16th century by Domenico Barotto and Defendente Lupo. The facade is in the Romanesque style, with 3 magnificent Gothic portals, decorated with statues and flower motifs. Over the portal is a monument to Julius II, the pope who freed Ascoli from the Guiderocchi tyranny. The inside is divided into 3 naves by five octagonal pillars on each side, that lead to the 3 apses of the majestic presbyterium. In the left nave is the mysterious wooden crucifix which was once in the Palazzo dei Capitani, and was miracuously spared in the 1535 fire, and which twice is recorded to have spilled blood. The Sacristy preserves works of great artistic value: furniture of the 18th century, paintings of artists who stayed in Ascoli during their lives, a Reliquary of the 14th century in wrought copper, donated to the Church by Pope Nicholas IV.
The Loggia dei Mercanti: The Loggia dei Mercanti was built in the 16th century care of the local Wool Guild (Corporazione della Lana) on a project of uncertain author, possibly of the Bramante school. In a part of the wall attached to the Church of San Francesco, near a side portal is a travertine stone 3 October 1568 dated recording all the measures prescribed for stones, bricks and tiles used in Ascoli that were to be used on future renovations. (in the picture: the measure stone)