‘Ark for Art’ in Italy – the only fortress which saved 10 thousand works of art in WW2

January 26, 2020

The ‘Ark for Art’ in Marche, Italy is the only military fortress in the world used for safekeeping of 10 thousand works of art during WW2

Ubaldinesca/Rocca Ubaldinesca fortress situated in Marche, Sassocorvaro, is the biggest art storage and collection in the history of humankind and was once designated to protect the most valuable masterpieces – and we talk about 10 thousand items. Architectonically, the fortress represents a unique example of Renaissance military architecture. That is why it is called today the ‘Ark for Art’.

Ubaldnesca fortress, the stunning example of the Renaissance military fortification is located in the centre of Sassocorvaro on the hill with the stunning view of the river Foglia and is part of Feltre Duchy complex defensive structures. It was built in 1475 according to the project by Francesco di Giorgio Martini (1439-1502) who was a military architect and engineer on the payroll of Duke Frederico da Montefeltro.

The fortress was primarily built for military defence and designed in the shape of round massive walls topped with hour-glass shaped towers, which was supposed to guarantee the better resistance against bombardment attempts during enemy attacks.

The only traces of war damages visible on the fortress, however, were inflicted during WW2 when a gigantic missile hit the walls leaving only a small slip of stones visible in the outer surface of the thick wall. This extreme durability was the primary reason why this object was chosen in 1943 by Pasquale Rotondi (Arpino 1909 – Rome 1991), who was curator of fine art Museum in Marche at that time, to store and protect numerous art pieces against the danger of war damage. After the war, the fortress has been transformed into a museum and archive commemorating surviving masterpieces of the Italian art.

Fortress also allowed for safekeeping of numerous art masterpieces from private collections and collections coming from the worship buildings in Sassocorvaro and the neighbourhood (Venice, Urbino, Pesaro, Fano, Ancona, Lagosta, Fabriano, Jesi, Osimo, Macerata, Fermo, Ascioli, Piceno). Among the masterpieces was famous ‘Tempesta’ by Giorgione (Italian Renaissance painter) and paintings by masters such as Raffaello Santi, Pierro della Francesca, Carlo Crivelli, Tiziano, Lorenzo Lotto, Paolo Uccello and Andrea Mantegna.

L’Arca dell’Arte or the ‘Ark for Art’ is the museum part containing reproductions of the art pieces saved during the war. On the first floor, a small library is contained in the former command room, Sala del commando in Italian, where the ancient manuscripts and books are stored and on display. Among other rooms, one is dedicated to the small chamber theatre and is decorated with frescos by Enrico Mancini, another one is dedicated to the alchemic workshop, and the rest host a small chapel, Pinacoteca Saloon and a small lodge connected to a garden. In every room, the Montefeltro and Ubaldini coats of arms are displayed on the ceilings. Interestingly, Montefeltro and Ubaldini were possibly twin brothers.

Recently, historians made an amazing discovery. They found the old manuscripts with proofs that Prince of Urbino, Frederico da Montefeltro and Count Ottaviano degli Ubaldini, the alchemist, were twin brothers. One of the proof is a relief by Francesco di Giorgio Martini, which depicts both men as equals. Relief is located in a princely palace in Urbino.

They were sons of Bernardino Ubaldini della Carda and Aura, the daughter of Guidantonio da Montefeltro. Count Guidantonio had no male heirs, so to preserve a family position and heritage, he adopted and give a title to his grandson, Frederico. Of course, all was done in strict secrecy, that is why many documents were promptly destroyed. But it is well documented that brothers were very close, so close, Frederico offered the fortress as a gift to Ottaviano.

All these facts are presented to the museum visitors engagingly. Today, volunteers are fighting for this unique place survival, they organise sightseeing tours to get founds for necessary renovations, soon there will be printed book edition of the Montefeltro family history available.

 

Text: Aneta Malinowska

Tlumaczenie: Jolanta Pitera

Photos: Aneta Malinowska

The article was published in polacywewloszech.com

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