2020: year of the double anniversary

2020: year of the double anniversary!

The Museum of Archaeology of the University of Pavia, since 1957, has been situated in a precious architectural setting: the XVIII century dome of the ancient San Matteo Hospital. It was a choice of the Rector of the time Plinio Fraccaro, a passionate teacher of Ancient History, after the San Matteo moved to the new Polyclinic outside the city in the 1930s.

In addition to celebrating the 200th anniversary of its foundation, the museum this year also celebrates the 250th anniversary of the construction of the building that houses it.

Construction of the dome began in 1770, when it was located over the pre-existing XV century vaulted roof. The hospital, founded in 1449 on the will of the Dominican friar of Spanish origin, Domenico di Catalogna, and with the support of the richest families of Pavia, resumed the model already used in Florence and Siena of the Greek cross inscribed in a square, thus forming four courtyards.

Cavalier Francesco Sartirana, Professor of Law at the University of Pavia, was Deputy Minister of the Congregation of San Matteo Hospital from 1765. In the same period, he was also president of the Ad Interim Deputation for the tenure of the university.

The project he proposed for the renovation of San Matteo hospital was approved by the delegates of the congregation of the hospital on 12 July 1770. The project was drawn up by two construction foremen, Martinelli and Catenaccio, but Sartirana conceived it. It comprised of the creation of a bright dome at the intersection of the arms of the cross. Inside the cross were wide aisles that housed the sick. Work began on 12 September 1770, once all the necessary permits had been received, to “increase the light and ventilation” of the building.

In 1774 the Austrian government sent Giuseppe Piermarini to carry out an inspection of the hospital site. The famous architect was established in Pavia at the time to supervise the renovation of the university. Piermarini approved the expenses incurred as well as the project, one which allowed better ventilation and air circulation facilitated by the dome.

In April 1779, the plenipotentiary minister and governor general of Austrian Lombardy, Count Carlo Giuseppe of Firmian, who had approved the intervention from the beginning, asked to be informed about the work carried out at San Matteo Hospital. From the report provided, it appears that the “Dome in the centre of the hospital with railings around two orders” is complete. In fact, the dome is still characterized by a double balcony inside, necessary to open the windows, protected by wooden balustrades in Barocchetto style.