The Ducal Palace of Urbino: A Journey Through Art & History

Join us on a journey through time as we explore the Ducal Palace, a true masterpiece of Italian architecture and art.

The palace, wanted by the Duke of Urbino Federico da Montefeltro, a man of arms and refined humanist, was built during the fifteenth century in successive phases.

Among the innumerable workers who were employed in this daring construction, we would want to remember the names of the three architects who were responsible for turning the structure into one of the most magnificent palaces of the Renaissance: The Florentine Maso di Bartolomeo, the Dalmatian Luciano Laurana and Francesco di Giorgio Martini from Siena.

The oldest nucleus of the building, called “Palazzetto della Jole”, was built by order of Count Guidantonio, Federico’s father.

History of Ducal Palace in Urbino

The Florentine Maso di Bartolomeo began work on the Ducal Palace for Duke Federico III da Montefeltro in the mid-fifteenth century. The pre-existing Palace of the Jole was integrated with the new building. The strong rock hillside salient was impenetrable to assault but difficult to carve out a palace foundation.

History of Ducal Palace in Urbino
History of Ducal Palace in Urbino

Thus, a great fortress-builder from Dalmatia, Luciano Laurana, was contracted to construct the foundation; however, Laurana left Urbino before the residential portions of the palace were completed. It is not known with confidence who designed the Ducal Palace after Laurana. Donato Bramante, a leading High Renaissance architect from Urbino, may have worked on the palace’s construction.

The Ducal Palace is well-known as the location of the dialogues depicted in Baldassare Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier as taking place in the Hall of Vigils in 1507.

Throughout the twentieth century, the palace served as a government structure, holding municipal records and offices, as well as public collections of historic inscriptions and sculptures. Visitors may now explore the huge underground network thanks to restoration work performed in 1985.

Studiolo and twin chapels in Ducal Palace

Several rooms at the Ducal Palace reflected Federico’s passion for Classical and Humanistic Studies and serviced his daily routine, which included visiting the palace’s lararium and reading Greek literature. These erudite and overtly pagan features were unusual for a medieval palazzo.

Studiolo and twin chapels in Ducal Palace
Studiolo and twin chapels in Ducal Palace


The studio, a chamber measuring just 3.60 by 3.35m and looking away from Urbino and towards the duke’s rural holdings, is a key component in this concept. The single most renowned example of this Italian skill of inlay is its superbly accomplished intarsia work, which surrounds the room’s inhabitant with trompe-l’oeil shelves, seats, and half-open latticework doors showing symbolic objects symbolizing the Liberal Arts.

Musical instruments are displayed on the benches, and books and musical scores, scientific equipment (including an astrolabe and an armillary sphere), study furniture (including an hourglass and writing desk), weapons and armor, and numerous other artifacts are shown on the shelves.

The studio also has iconic depictions of many people, both modern and historical. Federico in intellectual clothing, as well as Faith, Hope, and Charity, are shown on the intarsia panels. Portraits of notable authors by Joos van Wassenhove (with reworking by Pedro Berruguete) are displayed above the intarsia panels.

The Ducal Palace in Urbino
The Ducal Palace in Urbino

Temple of the Muses and Chapel of Absolution

A Christian and a pagan chapel are located below the studio. With this engraved elegiac couplet, the vestibule leading to them highlights their complementarity:

Guidobaldo Federico’s studio may have been located at the Temple of the Muses, initially contained paintings of the Muses as “sober musicians” that were possibly the work of Giovanni Santi.

National Gallery of the Marches

The National Gallery of the Marche, which is situated in the palace, is one of the world’s most important collections of Renaissance art. It features works by Raphael, Van Wassenhove (a Last Supper with portraits of the Montefeltro family and the court), Paolo Uccello, Piero della Francesca (with the famous Flagellation), Melozzo da Forl, Timoteo Viti, and other 15th century artists, as well as a late Titian Resurrection.

National Gallery of the Marches
National Gallery of the Marches

About structure of Ducal Palace in Urbino

The wing overlooking the modern-day Piazza Rinascimento began construction, with a long front decorated with mullioned windows, behind which are the Apartments of Iole, so named because of the large fireplace in the first room, which is decorated with carved figures of Hercules and Iole. The chambers in this section of the palace are exquisitely painted and the work of Tuscan craftsmen such as Michele di Giovanni da Fiesole, known as “Il Greco.” This wing houses the only frescoed chamber in the palace, which otherwise had walls “covered in simple white plaster, according to modern usage,” (Bernardino Baldi, 1587), and not ornamented but covered in cloth or, more commonly, embossed, gilded leather or tapestries.

Structure of Ducal Palace in Urbino
Structure of Ducal Palace in Urbino

Hotels near Palazzo Ducale in Urbino

  1. Corte Campioli Casa di Campagna
  2. Urbino Resort – Tenuta Santi Giacomo e Filippo
  3. Agriturismo biologico Castello Della Pieve
  4. Ancora Hotel & Residence
  5. Amoha Hotel
  6. Parco Del Lago
  7. Rosa Hotel
  8. Hotel Queen Mary
  9. Grand Hotel San Marino
  10. Hotel Ines

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