Day 6 - Tuesday 9th September, 2014


After our second lecture on Martin Bucer, we will travel to Pienza, a remarkable town in the mountains built in the fifteenth century along ideas of the Renaissance for the perfect town. It was here that Pius II was born, one of the most capable of Renaissance Popes. We will learn something of his importance and place in history. All site entrances and tours included in the price.




Pienza and Pius II

Pienza was originally a village called Corsignano where in 1405 Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini was born into an impoverished Sienese noble family. Through sheer ability and hard work he advanced up the ecclesiastical career ladder. He became Pope in 1458 under the name of Pius II. He had a sincere love for his village, and now with the means to hand he had it rebuilt as an ideal Renaissance town, applying the principles of humanism to urban planning. Work began in 1459, the year after his election.

Around the central square four great buildings arose, his own palace (the Piccolomini Palace), the duomo (Cathedral, Pienza was made a bishopric on its completion), the bishop’s place and the town hall. A young Cardinal, Rodrigo Borgia, later Pope Alexander VI was responsible for the construction of the bishop’s palace. However the main architect was a Florentine called Bernardo Gambarelli. Pius wanted the buildings to be airy and filled with light. The Palazzo Piccolomini of Pius II has spectacular views of the Val d'Orcia and Mount Amiata. Pope Pius II himself consecrated the duomo on August 29, 1462, and the name of the village was changed to Pienza after its illustrious refounder. Pienza became Pius’ usual summer retreat whither the curia retired to avoid the Summer heat and plague of Rome. Many of the cardinals built their own houses in and around Pienza.

Despite the grandeur and the exceptional expense of this project, the town remains small and compact. There is no through traffic and it is as if life has stopped a few hundred years ago. There is a feeling of calm in the town as you sit in the piazza drawing in the history around you. This UNESCO World Heritage sight is rarely visited by UK citizens not in the know. We will learn more about the life of Pius II as well as experiencing one of Italy’s most precious jewels.

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