The picturesque Old Square (Piazza Vecchia) with rich history, magnificent architectural monuments, and a delightful Baroque fountain has been decorating the city of Bergamo since the time of the Roman Empire when it housed an antique forum. Today, the main decoration of Old Square is the building of the Old Town Hall, or the Palace of Reason (Palazzo della Ragione), as it is called by locals.
The history of this majestic monument of ancient Italian architecture goes back to the early Middle Ages. It was built in the 12th century when administrative institutions were just beginning to appear in the Holy Roman Empire. For the first time, this building is mentioned in historical documents of 1198. Thus, the Bergamo Town Hall is considered the oldest town hall in Italy.
The building of the Old Town Hall has retained its original significance during the reign of the Republic of Venice, although it was, actually, a place of justice. Hence its second name, the Palace of Reason. However, the life of the Town Hall has not always been so blessed and rosy. Numerous arson attacks on the building by Spanish soldiers almost destroyed it. Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of the talented architect Pietro Isabello, the Bergamo Old Town Hall was not only restored but also acquired many new interesting details.
The central facade of the building was decorated with a new image of a winged Venetian lion in honor of St. Mark, so revered by the Venetians. The entrance was crowned by four tall, narrow Doric columns. The luxurious interiors were decorated with frescoes by the famous Italian artist Girolamo Colleoni. That was the period of the greatest prosperity in the history of the Old Town Hall.
Later, the Town Hall lost its original significance and started housing a unique museum of frescoes in the middle of the 20th century. The frescoes that once decorated the walls of residential houses and municipal buildings are placed in the spacious museum hall on the top floor of the Old Town Hall. Other popular exhibitions include works by the Italian sculptor Pietro Bussolo and the famous artist Bramante.