The Audience Hall
In 1390 the Municipality of Perugia, in compensation for the 1,400 florins lent to it for wars and famines from the Merchants, ceded some rooms on the ground floor of the Palazzo dei Priori to the Guild, which shortly after began the wooden cladding works (testified by a 15th-century Annunciation attributed to Mariano D'Antonio now kept in the Jaquemart-Andrée Museum in Paris). The furniture in the late Nordic Gothic style, which we see today, dates back to the first half of the 15th century, except for some 19th-century alterations. The author of this precious walnut, fir and poplar wainscoting is unknown, but the Nordic inspiration is clear. The work is partly in intaglio and partly in inlay. If the woodwork evokes Flanders, its contents evoke the East. In fact, the identical square tiles bear oriental symbols inlaid: a double square intertwined glyph that closes an octagonal star, inscribed in a full quadrilobe. This is how the geographic extremes of the most frequent journeys of the mercatores are connected.
Along the hall run the seats reserved for meetings for merchants, while officers sat on the seat to the right of the entrance. This seat is surmounted by bands of Gothic-style carving decoration, with a frame with shelves protruding on mullioned arches with spiral columns, and a lunette with a gold-highlighted fretwork on a red and blue background, bearing in the central wheel, in bas-relief, the dominant golden coat of arms of the Guild: a griffin passing on a bale. On the left is the overlooking pulpit, or ambon, where justice was administered among the merchants applying the special ius mercatorum: a recess and a finely carved polygonal parapet, surmounted by colored wooden bas-reliefs depicting the four cardinal virtues (Justice, Fortitude, Prudence, Temperance) and griffins of the city and of the Guild, that are, the vivid symbols of good justice and of the power that legitimized it. It is a rare testimony of the medieval mercantile judge's bench, of exceptional value also for this secular
symbolism that connects the corporation to the Civitas Perusina and which evokes the human virtues that
must guide the judge. On the right is a large counter, formerly belonging to the Collegio dei Notari, which Mercanzia bought in 1865. At the end of the room is an ancient wrought iron safe.
The Chapel of San Bernardino in the Cathedral
The Collegio della Mercanzia built its chapel, dedicated to San Bernardino, in a privileged space thanks to its primary civic importance: inside the Cathedral of Perugia, in the first span of the right bay. It is enclosed by a 15th-century wrought iron gate. The magnificent Deposition by Federico Barocci (1569) dominates the altar, while on the wall is a large carved counter of Hercules by Tommaso del Riccio and Iacopo Fiorentino (1567). The stained glass window, bearing a sermon by San Bernardino, is by Costantino di Rosato della Spalletta, based on a design by Arrigo Fiammingo da Malines (1565).
The Deposition from the Cross by Federico Barocci
Barocci worked on this altarpiece for almost two years and, according to many scholars and Andrea Emiliani (his greatest scholar) in particular, it marks the transition between the late Renaissance, Mannerism and Baroque.
The oil painting executed on arched canvas (412 cm high and 232 cm wide) was commissioned to Barocci by the Guild in 1568 and placed on the altar for the Christmas in 1569.
The painting shows strong contrasts between movement and stillness: the industriousness of the men who lower Christ from the cross and the gesture of St. John who embraces the feet of the Master; the outburst of the frightened pious women, who rush to help the Virgin abandoned lifeless in the arms of a woman, who stares at her in dismay. More defiladed, is St. Bernardino, who "seems to be rushing to support the divine limbs" (Bellori).
Barocci, overcoming the traditional chiaroscuro, used colored shadows to describe the different feelings and motions of the soul and made color the crucial and irreplaceable element of the painting.
The painting was despoiled and brought to Paris in 1799. But with the Restoration it was recovered by Canova and brought back to Perugia.
Thanks to a scrupulous national professional level restoration carried out in 2010, the work has been restored to its extraordinary chromatic variety and intensity.
The Domus Pauperum is a monumental Renaissance hall, with cross vaults, divided into three naves by two rows of travertine columns with capitals. It was built in 1507 by the Collegio della Mercanzia - the hegemonic corporation in the government of Perugia - in the center of the Porta Sant’Angelo hamlet (now Corso Garibaldi, 84), to shelter people in need and maintained as such until 1990. It is established within the premises of the pre-existing Hospitale Mercatorum, documented as early as 1321, intended for foreign merchants, pilgrims, and the destitute. The brick facade bears three stone coats of arms of the Merchandise, with the griffin on a bale of wool. The beautiful central entrance door in walnut has the name and date MDVII (1507) engraved.
Altered over time until it was almost forgotten, it was rediscovered and carefully restored in 2014-16 by Nobile Collegio della Mercanzia itself, with special attention to techniques and materials, and it was brought back to the beauty of the ancient forms to be intended for public use for cultural activities such as conferences, meetings, conventions, exhibitions, and small concerts. For this purpose, and for the benefit of Porta Sant’Angelo area and the whole city, in 2018 the Mercanzia has leased it for free to the Municipality of Perugia.
Although it is still owned by the Mercanzia, the Domus Pauperum is now managed by the Municipality of Perugia. The Municipality organizes events or grants it to applicants who intend to make an occasional compliant use.
The recovery of the Domus Pauperum, an important element of the historical architecture identity of the hamlet, redeveloped and enhanced one of the most beautiful and evocative environments of the entire historic center of Perugia.
The monumental room called Domus Pauperum constitutes the oldest part of a large and stratified historical complex. Located in the center of Corso Garibaldi, it was born with hospital functions and as a shelter for the people in need. It was known since 1315, but the Hospitale Mercatorum was only attested as property of the Merchants' Guild since 1321, when it was rebuilt as the initiative of Andrutium Stefani, Prior of the Noble Collegio. The original Gothic style structure of the building was radically modified in the early sixteenth century, when a larger central entrance was added to the two side entrances and the space was divided into two floors, of which only the lower one retained the function of shelter, or more precisely, a dormitory. This space was divided into three naves by two rows of five Renaissance-style columns surmounted by stone capitals, which support the cross vaults; the beautiful entrance door, dating back to this era, has engraving of the date “MCVII” (1507), when the restructuring was completed.
The recovery of the entire complex is now destined to give the neighbourhood a new appearance, respectful of the centuries-old history of this city area. Under this framework, at the end of a careful restoration, the free lease of the Domus Pauperum from the Noble Collegio della Mercanzia to the Municipality, so that it can live as a space of culture open to the community, constitutes a generous act that renews a relationship between the two institutions lasting more than seven centuries.