A town with a wealth of buildings, situated in the middle of the Upper Metauro Valley (62 km from the sea) and edged on three sides by the river which runs beneath its ancient town wall.
It was founded in the Middle Ages as Castel delle Ripe and stood on the left bank of the River Metauro. In 1277, it was destroyed by the Ghibelline Galasso da Montefeltro because it was loyal to the Guelphs. In 1284 it was rebuilt by the papal legate Guglielmo Durante, who moved the town from the hill down to the plain and defended it by building a well fortified castle, sturdy wall and by taking advantage of the waters of the natural moat which flowed around it. From this time the town was named Casteldurante after its founder. It changed its name to Urbania only in 1636, when the lands of the Duchy of Urbino, of which the town was part, passed to the Church, and Pope Urban VIII gave it the title of ‘city’, with its own diocese. The layout of the town is fairly regular in shape, with long straight streets which are reminiscent of a Roman settlement. It is divided into four quarters (Porta Parco, Porta Cella, Porta Vecchia and Porta Nuova) and contains buildings dating back over various periods, several of which are of notable architectural interest. Most important of all is the vast Palazzo Ducale (15th – 16th centuries). This originally belonged to the Brancaleone family, first feudal lords of Casteldurante, and was then the residence of the Montefeltros and the Della Roveres. Today it houses the Biblioteca Comunale (Town Library), the town archives, the Museo Civico (Civic Museum) and Museo della Civiltà Contadina (Museum of Rural Crafts). Among the town’s religious buildings is the Chiesa dei Morti, with fine Gothic portal, which contains a macabre ‘Cimitero delle mummie’ (display of mummified corpses). Other churches include the Renaissance church of Corpus Domini, the Baroque church of Santa Caterina, the 18th Century church of San Francesco and the Cathedral (dating from the same period). The adjoining Palazzo Vescovile (Bishop’s Palace) now houses the Diocesan Museum. Also worthy of mention is the 15th Century Palazzo Comunale (Town Hall) and bell tower (1561), the 19th Century Teatro ‘D. Bramante’ with its elegant auditorium laid out with tiers of boxes, and the Renaissance building at Barco, a kilometre outside the town, which incorporates the 18th Century church of San Giovanni Battista. Two painters, Giustino Episcopi and Giorgio Picchi, were born in Urbania and several fine works by them can be seen in a number of churches.
The early pottery of Casteldurante is well known throughout the world. This majolica ware was produced by skilled craftsmen in the town who, with the patronage of the court of the Della Rovere family, were able to work with famous painters. Through this collaboration they produced a genre of decoration using historical scenes which brought fame to such masters as Zoan Maria, Simone da Colonella, the Dolci and Fontana families, as well as Cipriano Piccolpasso, who wrote the treatise “Li tre libri dell’arte del vasaio” (1548).

Project categories: Itinerary, Itinerary

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