Towards the end of the eleventh century the Bishop of Pistoia left the building he lived in with the cathedral priests and began a new construction in the area between the via regis and the piazza in front of the Duomo.
This palazzo had the appearance of a real fortress, with an imposing tower at one corner and battlements running along its whole perimeter. The site chosen was one of highly symbolic prestige because it was one of the most ancient areas of the city, as is proved by the artifacts that have been found here and are now displayed in the building's archeological section.
The choice of site helped reinforce the bishop's power over the commerce going on in the square in front of the building. On the occasion of Bishop Rainaldo's de feudo imperiali investiture, the emperor Federico Barbarossa was a guest in the palazzo which had recently undergone works of embellishment.
The most important of these was the fresco decoration of the great synodal hall where battle scenes were painted (of which few fragments remain today). This was the period when the bishop's residence was transformed into a real city palazzo; few traces of its defense characteristics are still visible on the back wall and along the façade, later hidden by a fourteenth century colonnade.
In the mid 1200s when the bishop Atto was promoting the worship of San Jacopo it became necessary to build a sacristy that could house the vestments and precious objects donated by the faithful to the patron saint. In a later period the Cappella di San Niccolò for the Bishop's private mass, was built over the sacristy. This chapel was first frescoed but, over time, it was used for different functions; today we can see the unusual suspended brick apse in the street behind the cathedral.
During the thirteenth century renovations drastically modified the front and the elevation of the palazzo. Although they preserved the Romanesque structures, the renovations profoundly influenced the building's layout which was enlarged and enriched by a new façade that incorporated the front stairway. After this only small variations were made to the palazzo until Bishop Scipione de' Ricci, seeing its bad repair and the excessive division of its rooms, decided to build a new one.
Since then the old building, reduced to private quarters, has undergone numerous changes to the indoor spaces and some to the main façade. The Cassa di Risparmio, the owner of the building, sponsored a radical restoration that has uncovered the building's Gothic form and has given this prestigious residence back the dignity that it enjoyed in centuries past.
Apart from serving as the bank's headquarters, the palazzo today also houses the Cathedral Museum as well as the reconstruction of the tempera painting cycle that Giovanni Boldini had created in a room of the Villa La Falconiera in Collegiliato outside Pistoia. Today the Tourist Bureau has its information office in the space which had been occupied for centuries by various artisan workshops.
It is also possible to visit an Archaeological Itinerary inside the Antico Palazzo dei Vescovi.
Tuesday, Thursday, Friday: 10:00-13:00/15:30-17:00
For further information:
Tel: +39 057328740
Comune di Pistoia