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An article from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, now in the public domain.
Any color photos are mine, © William P. Thayer.

p666 Gubbio

Gubbio (anc. Iguviumq.v.; med. Eugubium), a town and episcopal see of Umbria, Italy, in the province of Perugia, from which it is 23 m. NNE by road; by rail it is 13 m. NW of Fossato di Vico (on the line between Foligno and Ancona) and 70 m. ESE of Arezzo.a Pop. (1901) 5783 (town); 26,718 (commune).b Gubbio is situated at the foot and on the steep slopes of Monte Calvo, from 1568 to 1735 ft. above sea-level, at the entrance to the gorge which ascends to Scheggia, probably on the site of the ancient Umbrian town. It presents a markedly medieval appearance. The most prominent building is the Palazzo dei Consoli, on the N side of the Piazza della Signoria; it is a huge Gothic edifice with a tower, erected in 1332‑1346, according to tradition, by Matteo di Giovanello of Gubbio; the name of Angelo da Orvieto occurs on the arch of the main door, but his work may be limited to the sculptures of this arch. It has two stories above the ground floor, and, being on the slope of the hill, is, like the whole piazza, raised on arched substructures. On the S side of the piazza is the Palazzo Pretorio, or della Podestà, begun in 1349 and now the municipal palace. It contains the famous Tabulae Iguvinae,c and a collection of paintings of the Umbrian school, of furniture and of majolica. On the E side is the modern Palazzo Ranghiasci-Brancaleone, which until 1882 contained fine collections, now dispersed. Above the Piazza della Signoria, at the highest point of the town, is the Palazzo Ducale, erected by the dukes of Urbino in 1474‑1480; the architect was, in all probability, Lucio da Laurana, to whom is due the palace at Urbino, which this palace resembles, especially in its fine colonnaded court. The Palazzo Beni, lower down, belongs to a somewhat earlier period of the 15th century. Pope Martin V lodged here for a few days in 1420. The Palazzo Accoramboni, on the other hand, is a Renaissance structure, with a fine entrance arch. Here Vittoria Accoramboni was born in 1557. Opposite the Palazzo Ducale is the cathedral, dedicated to SS. Mariano e Jacopo, a structure of the 12th century, with a façade, adorned with contemporary sculptures, partly restored in 1514‑1550. The interior contains some good pictures by Umbrian artists, a fine episcopal throne in carved wood, and a fine Flemish cope given by Pope Marcellus II (1555) in the sacristy. The exterior of the Gothic church of S. Francesco, in the lower part of the town, built in 1259, preserves its original style, but the interior has been modernized; and the same fate has overtaken the Gothic churches of S. Maria Nuova and S. Pietro. S. Agostino, on the other hand, has its Gothic interior better preserved. The whole town is full of specimens of medieval architecture, the pointed arch of the 13th century being especially prevalent. A remarkable procession takes place in Gubbio on the 15th of May in each year, in honour of S. Ubaldo, when three colossal wooden pedestals, each over 30 ft. high, and crowned by statues of SS. Ubaldo, Antonio and Giorgio, are carried through the town, and then, in a wild race, up to the church of S. Ubaldo on the mountain-side (2690 ft.). See H. M. Bower, The Elevation and Procession of the Ceri at Gubbio (Folk-lore Society, London, 1897).

After its reconstruction with the help of Narses (see Iguvium) the town remained subject to the exarchs of Ravenna, and after the destruction of the Lombard kingdom in 774, formed part of the donation of Charlemagne to the pope. In the 11th century the beginnings of its independence may be traced. In the struggles of that time it was generally on the Ghibelline side. In 1151 it repelled an attack of several neighbouring cities, anc formed from this time a republic governed by consuls. In 1155 it was besieged by the emperor Frederick I, but saved by the intervention of its bishop, S. Ubaldo, and was granted privileges p667by the emperor. In 1203 it had its first podestà, and from this period dates the rise of its importance. In 1387, after various political changes, it surrendered to Antonio da Montefeltro of Urbino, and remained under the dominion of the dukes of Urbino until, in 1624, the whole duchy was ceded to the pope.

Gubbio was the birthplace of Oderisio, a famous miniature painter (1240‑1299), mentioned by Dante as the honour of his native town (Purg. xi.80 "l' onor d' Agobbio"), but no authentic works by him exist. In the 14th and 15th centuries a branch of the Umbrian school of painting flourished here, the most famous masters of which were Guido Palmerucci (1280‑1345?) and several members of the Nelli family, particularly Ottaviano (d. 1444), whose best work is the "Madonna del Belvedere" in S. Maria Nuova at Gubbio (1404), extremely well preserved, with bright colouring and fine details. Another work by him is the group of frescoes including a large "Last Judgment," and scenes from the life of St. Augustine, in the church of S. Agostino, discovered in 1902 under a coating of whitewash. These painters seem to have been influenced by the contemporary masters of the Sienese school.

Gubbio occupies a far more important place in the history of majolica. In a decree of 1438 a vasarius vasorum pictorum is mentioned, who probably was not the first of his trade. The art was brought to perfection by Giorgio Andreoli, whose father had emigrated hither from Pavia, and who in 1498 became a citizen of Gubbio. The works by his hand are remarkable for their ruby tint, with a beautiful metallic lustre; but only one small tazza remains in Gubbio itself. His art was carried on by his sons, Cencio and Ubaldo, but was afterwards lost, and only recovered in 1853 by Angelico Fabbri and Luigi Carocci.

Two miles outside Porta Metauro to the NE is the Bottaccione, a large water reservoir, constructed in the 12th or 14th century; the water is collected in the bed of a stream by a massive dam.

See A. Colasanti, Gubbio (Bergamo, 1905); L. McCracken, Gubbio (London, 1905).

[T. As.]


Thayer's Notes:

a Although the distances remain roughly the same, of course, and Fossato is still on the Rome-Ancona line, the small private rail line from Fossato to Arezzo no longer exists. For a sympathetic capsule history of it (1880‑1944), see Giuseppe Giuliarelli's article in L' Eco del Serrasanta. Fossato di Vico now serves as the railway station of Gubbio: the trains are met by buses and in 20 minutes you're home.

b In 2000, the official census figures gave Gubbio 31,483 inhabitants.

c The Eugubine Tables (also: Iguvine Tables) and the art collection are now (2003) housed in the previously mentioned Palazzo della Signoria.


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