Pope Pius and Pienza

Romeo and Juliet
were in Pienza
with Franco Zeffirelli
so I went there.

A tiny town in Tuscany
it’s Corsignano rebuilt
by Pope Pius the Second
as the Renaissance ideal.

I approached past vineyards
olive groves, honey stone villas
fields of wheat
and pastoral hills
crowned with cypress.

I entered the Porta al Preto
turned immediately right
and down the Via Gozzante
gazed from the belvedere
upon the Val d’Orcia
and its winding roads.

Back in Corso Rosselino
is a cathedral, a papal palace
a town hall and a well.
This is Pius’ perfect city
his ideal Renaissance design
the new vision of urban space.

Transforming his boyhood town
for his summer court
the Pope invented the piazza.
It is defined by four buildings.
Palazzo Piccolomini is on the west side
with an inner court
and loggia on all floors.

The Duomo
the cathedral
dominates the piazza.
Pilasters and columns
on its façade
standing on high dados
and linked by arches
was a novel idea.
Light is heightened
in the Duomo
no coloured glass
or paintings on the walls.

Instead Pope Pius ordered
five altarpieces
by four Sienese artists
to follow the new architectural style.

Across from the church
is the town hall
the Palazzo Communale.
Its three arched loggia
face the Duomo.

On the third side
of the piazza
is the Palazzo Vescovile
which housed the bishops
who travelled to Pienza
to attend the Pope.
It is now the Diocesan Museum
and the Museo della Cattedrale.

The travertine well
in the piazza
was widely copied in Tuscany
for one hundred years.

 

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