1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Vicenza
VICENZA, a town and episcopal see of Venetia, Italy, capital of the province of Vicenza, 42 m. W. of Venice by rail, 131 ft. above sea-level. Pop. (1901) 32,200 (town); 47,558 (commune). It lies at the northern base of the Monti Berici, on both sides of the Bacchiglione, at its confluence with the Retrone. It was surrounded by 13th-century walls, once about 3 m. in circumference, but these are now in great part demolished. Though many of the streets are narrow and irregular, the town has a number of fine buildings, many of them the work of Andrea Palladio. The best of these is the town hall, otherwise known as the basilica, one of the finest works of the Renaissance period, of which Palladio himself said that it might stand comparison with any similar work of antiquity. It is especially noteworthy owing to the difficulty of the task the architect had to accomplish—that of transforming the exterior of the Palazzo della Ragione, a Gothic building of the latter half of the 15th century, which the colonnades of the basilica entirely enclose. It was begun in 1549, but not finished till 1614, long after his death. He also designed many of the fine palaces which give Vicenza its individuality; only two of them, the Barbarano and Chiericati palaces (the latter containing the picture gallery), have two orders of architecture, the rest having a heavy rustica basis with only one order above it. Many palaces, however, have been wrongly attributed to him which are really the work of Scamozzi and others of his successors. The famous Teatro Olimpico was begun by him, but only finished after his death; it is a remarkable attempt to construct a theatre in the ancient style, and the stage, with the representation of streets ascending at the back, is curious. The cathedral, which is Italian Gothic, dating mainly from the 13th century, consists of a nave with eight chapels on each side, and a very high Renaissance domed choir; it contains examples of the Montagnas and of Lorenzo da Venezia. The churches of S. Lorenzo (1280–1344) and S. Corona (1260–1300), both of brick, are better examples of Gothic than the cathedral; both contain interesting works of art—the latter a very fine “Baptism of Christ,” by Giovanni Bellini. In S. Stefano is an imposing altar-piece by Palma Vecchio. The church of SS. Felice e Fortunato was restored in A.D. 975, but has been much altered, and was transformed in 1613. The portal is of 1154, and the Lombardesque square brick tower of 1160. Under it a mosaic pavement with the names of the donors, belonging to the original church of the Lombard period (?), was discovered in 1895 (see F. Berchet, III. Relazione dell’ Ufficio Regionale per la conservazione dei monumenti del Veneto, Venice, 1895, p. iii). None of the churches of Vicenza is the work of Palladio. Of the Palladian villas in the neighbourhood, La Rotonda, or Villa Palladiana, 1½ m. S.E., deserves special mention. It is a square building with Ionic colonnades and a central dome, Like an ancient temple, but curiously unlike a Roman villa. Vicenza also contains some interesting remains of the Gothic period besides the churches mentioned—the lofty tower of the town hall (1174–1311–1446; the Piazza contains two columns of the Venetian period, with S. Theodore and the Lion of S. Mark on them) and several palaces in the Venetian style. Among these may be especially noted the small Casa Pigafetta dating from 1481, but still half Gothic, prettily decorated. Some of these earlier houses had painted façades. The fine picture of “Christ bearing the Cross” (wrongly ascribed to Giorgione), according to Burckhardt once in the Palazzo Loschi, is now in the Gardner collection at Boston, U.S.A. The most important manufacture is that of silk, which employs a large proportion of the inhabitants. Great numbers of mulberry trees are grown in the neighbourhood. Woollen and linen cloth, leather, earthenware, paper, and articles in gold and silver are also made in Vicenza, and a considerable trade in these articles, as well as in corn and wine, is carried on.
Vicenza is the ancient Vicetia, an ancient town of Venetia. It was of less importance than its neighbours Venetia and Patavium, and we hear little of it in history. It no doubt acquired Roman citizenship in 49 B.C., and became a municipium; and is mentioned two years later apropos of a dispute between the citizens and their slaves. Remains of a theatre and of a late mosaic pavement with hunting scenes have been found, three of the bridges across the Bacchiglione and Retrone are of Roman origin, and arches of the aqueduct exist outside Porta S. Croce. A road diverged here to Opitergium (mod. Oderzo) from the main road between Verona and Patavium (Padua): see T. Mommsen in Corp. Inscr. Latin, v. (Berlin, 1883), p. 304. It suffered severely in the invasion of Attila, by whom it was laid waste, and in subsequent incursions. It was for some time during the middle ages an independent republic, but was subdued by the Venetians in 1405. Towards the end of the 15th century it became the seat of a school of painting strongly influenced by Mantegna, of which the principal representatives were, besides Bartolomeo Montagna, its founder, his son Benedetto Montagna, Giovanni Speranza and Giovanni Buonconsiglio. Good altar-pieces by the former exist in S. Bartolommeo, S. Corona, and the cathedral, and several pictures also in the picture gallery; while his son Benedetto had greater merits as an engraver than a painter. Some works by both of the last two exist at Vicenza—the best is a Pietà in tempera in the gallery by Buonconsiglio, by whom is also a good Madonna at S. Rocco. Andrea Palladio (1518–1580) was a native of Vicenza, as was also a contemporary, Vincenzo Scamozzi (1552–1616), who was largely dependent on him, but is better known for his work on architecture (Architettura universale, 1615). Palladio inaugurated a school of followers who continued to erect similar buildings in Vicenza even down to the French Revolution. (T. As.)