Diocesan Museum of Religous Art
and the Bishop’s Palace
The Bishop’s Palace, which is still the residence of the bishop of Arezzo, stands opposite the cathedral. It was built by Guglielmino degli Ubertini in the 13th century and he was the first bishop of Arezzo to reside there. Its current aspect is the result of radical renovation in the late 16th century, with 17th and 18th century additions.
The history of this building coincides with the events of the Arezzo church and today it is in excellent condition and largely maintains the connotations assumed with the transformations made between the end of the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries
The ground floor has been home since 2011 to the Diocesan Museum of Religious Art, an important collection of sculptures, paintings, illuminated codices, vestments and gold work from churches in the diocese. The museum’s most important works in the first room include three rare wooden crucifixes datable to some time between the late 12th century and the early decades of the 13th, whose craftsmanship testifies to the skill and artistry of the woodcarvers of Arezzo at the time. The second room is devoted to the theme of the Annunciation, while the third showcases the work of Bartolomeo della Gatta, a Camaldolese monk from Florence and a highly original painter who lived and worked in Arezzo for a considerable period of time.
The fourth room focuses on the work of Giorgio Vasari but it also houses work by other painters, including the predella of an altarpiece by Luca Signorelli. The corpus of Vasari’s work is effectively represented by a processional banner which he painted for the Compagnia dei Peducci in 1549 and includes two extremely sophisticated paintings depicting St. John the Baptist Preaching and the Baptism of Christ, a large tondo datable to 1557 which originally formed the centrepiece of a red silk canopy depicting the Madonna of Mercy, reproducing an extremely popular iconographical theme in the art of Arezzo in the 15th and 16th centuries. The last room contains paintings, wooden sculptures, terracottas and precious liturgical objects. Note in particular the Siena Pax Brede, a splendid example of Franco-Flemish gold work datable to the early 15th century, which Pope Pius II originally donated to Siena Cathedral and the Sienese Consistory in its turn donated to Arezzo Cathedral in 1799.
The first floor of the palace, which may also be visited, houses the Bishop’s Picture Gallery and the Papal Chamber, reserved for the popes when visiting Arezzo. The piano nobile, which serves as the bishop’s residence and as a venue for his formal meetings, has rooms and the palatine chapel frescoed by Teofilo Torri, the reception rooms housing the picture gallery and the room reserved for visiting sovereign pontiffs. Particularly noteworthy is the decoration of the vestibule, a small reception room with a cycle of frescoes recounting the history of the ancient diocese of Arezzo with its most important saints, including its patron St. Donatus, and the most important places of worship in the diocese.