The huge Palazzo dei Musei (Museums Palace) has housed since the end of the XIX century many cultural institutions. It is certainly the biggest museum-centre in Modena.
On this page you can find information about: the Estense Lapidary Museum; the Art Library Luigi Poletti; the Giuseppe Graziosi Museum; the Municipal Historical Archives and the Estense University Library.
Two special pages are dedicated to the Municipal Museums°° and to the Estense Gallery°°, one of the finest collection in Italy.
Modena has been defined as a ‘continuum town’, because ancient materials were always used for the construction of new builings through the centuries (and the Duomo is a wonderful example). These works of art were collected in the 1830s by Duke Francesco IV. So, under the airy vaults of the courtyard, just aroud the statue of the Duke of Ferrara, Borso d’Este, hundreds of pieces are shown.
There are sarcophagus, columns, Roman inscriptions, sometimes taken during the Middle Ages by noble families. The famous stone column, once in via Farini°, is also here. Choirs and sculptures dating back from the 13th to the 17th centuries are in the Museum as well. In the second courtyard, under a glass ceiling, there is the Roman Lapidary Museum, where a beautiful mosaic from a Roman domus and the Vetilia ara stand. This one is an important monument of the Roman era, perfectly preserved and found not many years ago during some building works.
At the end of the main courtyard, two rooms house a big collection of statues, bronzes, paintings and drawnings by Giuseppe Graziosi (Savignano sul Panaro 1879 – Firenze 1942), the most important Modenese artist of the early 20th century. For example, he is the author of the Two Rivers Fountain in largo Garibaldi.
Luigi Poletti (Modena 1792 – Milano 1869) was a famous Modenese architect in the 19th century, one of the main experts of the Italian Neoclassicism (for example, he realized the Immacolata column and the San Paolo ‘outside the walls’ church in Rome, the Canovian temple in Possagno and the theatre of Rimini). At his death, he decided to donate his volumes of architecture, engineering and art to the town. Later donations have expanded the collection and now they are all available in the library.
The State Archives° of Modena is the oldest in Italy, but the Municipal one is not less interesting. Differently from many other towns, it was not diminished through the centuries nor its documents given to the State Archives. For these reasons, it is one of the richest in Northern Italy.
All the acts of the ancient town-republic and of the city under the Estense domination until the 19th century are kept on fascinating, 7/8-kilometre-long shelves. The most ancient deals with the Nonantola abbey and dates back to 969. There are also Statuta Civitatis (from 1327), Art Statutes, two manuscript of the Secchia Rapita by Alessandro Tassoni and Boccabadati map (mid 17th century) of the Modena area.
The Estense Library was opened to the public in 1764 thanks to Duke Francesco III. Its collections are among the most important in Italy. They were initially bought by the Estense Dukes while they were in Ferrara during the 14th century. In the 18th century, Ludovico Antonio Muratori and Girolamo Tiraboschi, two of the finest erudites of the period, were librarians here. The present name was given when it was linked with the University Library in the Museum Palace°° at the end of the 19th century. The shelves designed by Termanini in the 18th century are amazing.
The permanent exhibition room is called the Campori room. Here, not to be forgotten: the Borso d’Este Bible (15th century. According to Guido Piovene it is the finest in Italy, just too rich in decorations!); the Charta del Navigare (or del Cantino, 1502, realized in Lisbon, one of the first to display the roundness of the Earth with the recent Columbus’ voyages!); the Catalan globe and the treatise De Sphaera (15th century); the Duke Ercole I d’Este breviary.
[Images from 1 to 11 courtesy of the Estense Library, from its website; from 12 to 33 by the Author with kind permission; from 34 to 40 courtesy of the Municipal Archives]