The construction of Villa d’Este

Pirro Ligorio

In September 1550 the city of Tivoli triumphantly welcomes the new governor, Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, nominated by Pope Julius II.
Cardinal Ippolito was among for the role of Pope in 1550 but, despite being one of the most powerful cardinals in Italy, due to the Spanish veto, he could not earn the papal tiara. Arrived in Tivoli he refuses to stay in the Convent attached to the Church of Saint Mary Major reserved to the governors of the city.

A great Villa

The Cardinal decided to build a great Villa near the Convent, so he called together the best artists in circulation at that time and in 1560 the works of the grandiose Villa d’Este began. Thus Villa d’Este Gardens becomes the Pope’s summer residence. The convent attached to the Church of Saint Mary Major (Church now located next to the current entrance of the Villa d’Este) is replaced by the Palazzo and the Este garden.
The works of the Villa were entrusted to the best artists in circulation at that time and in 1560, Villa d’Este gardens start to take life.
In Rome, the official residence of the Cardinal was the residence of Monte Cavallo (Quirinale) who was leased by Cardinal Carafa.

Pirro Ligorio architect at the service of Ippolito II d’Este

The works of the Villa are entrusted to a very remarkable team of artists. In order to help in the project is called Pirro Ligorio (1513-1583), a brilliant Neapolitan architect who, at that time, worked at the Fabbrica di San Pietro. He also curates the creation of another famous garden: the garden of Bomarzo or Monster’s Park in the province of Viterbo dating back to 1547 commissioned by the Orsini family.
Pirro Ligorio is also a painter and an antique dealer. On behalf of Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, from 1549 he oversees the excavations of the Hadrian’s Villa. Part of the material found in the Villa (marble and artifacts of all kinds) will be reused for the construction of the Villa d’Este.
Therefore, the architect Ligorio evaluated the potential of the government headquarters. There was the need to adapt the ancient convent of Saint Mary Major to the Cardinal’s residence. So the Convent is replaced by the new Palace while the garden is built in a beautiful place that, in Roman times, was called the “Gaudente valley” because of its wonderful location.
Already in the Middle Ages, the “Gaudente valley” was occupied by an entire district, the so-called Campitelli district. All this sector of the city was occupied by vegetable gardens, private and public buildings that the Cardinal had to expropriate to start the works of the Villa.
District Capitelli was modified because of the construction of the garden.
This led citizens to protests because, acting this way, Cardinal Ippolito deprived people of their homes and lands. In 1568 tiburtini (people from Tivoli) sent 12 complaints to Pope Pio V, but the requests were vain. The will of Cardinal Ippolito was realized. The Villa d’Este covers an area of about 5 hectares. So distributed: one hectare the Palace and 4 hectares the garden which is therefore built in the heart of the city. The works lasted 12 years. From 1560 to 1572 (it is still a relative date because even after the death of Ippolito, occurred in 1572, the works continued).

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