Bellinzona – Palazzo del Commune

The town hall has been the seat of Local Government (the Town Council) and of the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages for as long as records have been kept. In fact, under the present building there are traces of early foundations dating back to the 13th century. In 1347 a rather rudimentary building, the “Copertum comunis” was erected, where the citizens’ assembly met and a court of justice held its proceedings. Later, with the economic development of the town and its increasing political importance at the northern border of the State of Milan, it was given the grander name of “palatium domus comunis Birinzone” in 1393.

This building was then completely refurbished in the 1400s, becoming the “Palazzo del Podestà”, where the “podestà”, the medieval equivalent of a chief magistrate, and police commissioners went about their duties on behalf of the Visconti and Sforza Dukes of Milan. The chambers included the meeting rooms of the local governing body, the municipal gaol, the chancellery, and the living quarters of Milanese officials.

In the 1490s the building was enlarged and improved by the addition of a bell tower to mark the passing of the hours. This is topped by a turret with small columns and an iron ball and standard on the roof. Some time later the town clock was added. At the beginning of the 20th century the building was in a state of disrepair and the decision was taken to demolish and rebuild it. The reconstruction was completed in 1928.The successive alterations made to the Town Hall are depicted in some of the graffito lunettes by local artist Baldo Carugo, which decorate the loggias in the courtyard of the present day building.

Several features of previous constructions were incorporated into the modern building. These include a pillar, several 14th century capitals and bases in the portico at the front of the building, a 14th century hexagonal pillar built into the façade under the portico and the 15th century door to the tower, which is now on the ground floor in the courtyard. Part of an ornamental frieze which once decorated the 16th century Ducal Hall can now be admired in the loggia on the second floor.The “Sala Patriziale” (Chamber of the local patrician families) is decorated with the crests of the most important families whose names are associated with the origins of Bellinzona, and in the present day Council Chamber there is an impressive picture depicting a bird’s-eye view of Bellinzona at the end of the 1700s.

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