At the end of the thirteenth century Pistoia enjoyed a period of economic wealth and political stability, creating the need for a larger and more dignified building for the magistracy which until then had been temporarily located first in private houses and then in an old building no longer in existence today. A widely known legend of the last century, unconfirmed by any document, recounted that the building that is today the seat of city government was commissioned by the then gover or Giano della Bella; in fact, even today the building is known as the Palazzo di Giano.
In truth, even before Giano's time, the City had bought a group of houses in the corner between the piazza and the present day Ripa dei Sale near the first ring of city walls and so, as recent research shows, Giano did not really play an active role in the building of the palazzo.
The history of the building's construction is rather complex and even today is not completely clear. In spite of the lack of documentation, however, we can reconstruct the main developments.
The first construction was built in the late 1200s around the courtyard where the sculpture 'Miracolo' by Marini Marini is now situated; it was known as the Palazzo of the Old Lords and of the Chief Magistrate. lt was extended during the first half of the next century when the portico of the façade was added, formed at first of only four archways.
A later extension built on the rooms next to the Ripa della Comunità (today used for temporary exhibitions), and the building was raised to the third floor level. A fifth arch was added to balance the façade which presents a very different form from other models of Tuscan public architecture.
Towards the mid-fourteenth century the palazzo took the form that it still has today: in fact few modifications were made in later centuries and these mostly involved the indoor spaces that have been adapted over the course of time to the administrations' changing needs.
In the first half of the 1600s the bridge linking the palazzo to the cathedral was built, allowing the magistrates direct access to the church in order to attend services.
At the height of the Medici regime's power, the family's coat of arms was added to the center of the façade with the papal crown and great keys above, a tribute to Pope Leone X, an illustrious member of the Medici family.
On the same façade there are many traces of the Medieval era such as the black marble head underneath a metal club, which popular legend identifies as the traitor Filippo Tedici, although it is presumably a portrait of King Musetto II of Majorca, killed by the Pistoian captain Grandonio dei Ghisilieri during the conquest of the Baleares Islands in the twelfth century.
lnstead Tedici's head can be seen on the doorway of the church of Sant'Andrea and legend has it that it is black because, as a sign of disgust for his deeds, the Pistoians extinguished their torches on his face before going into church.
Comune di Pistoia