The Arsenal Palace is located on the corner of Piazza Statuto (Statuto square) and Via Sombrico; it was built between 12th and 13th centuries on an area previously home to wooden huts and hearths.
It was probably a merchant warehouse given its vicinity to the market square and the lake: the south section, in fact, opens directly onto via Sombrico, with a sequence of portals, not symmetrical with the same or different profile, having in common the stone jambs. On the first floor, two windows with segmental arch lithic frames refer to the same period as the underlying openings.
The building was renovated between 14th and 15th centuries with the upper floors adopted as a residence, as documented by the large windows, decorated with terracotta friezes and pointed arches. On the first floor there are visible traces of a fresco with a royal female figure and perhaps some boats.
Father Fulgenzio Rinaldi recalled in his Memorie storiche di Iseo (Historical Memoirs of Iseo) (1685) that the Oldofredi family bought the building from Bernardino de ‘Laudensi and then sold it on to the Venetian Republic in 1619. The Venetian government assigned it as the army barracks for the soldiers on duty at the Palazzo della Quadra (Quadra Palace). Perhaps it was as a result of this use that the building was called the Arsenal.
Unused in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, after another restoration it became a district jail, which continued until 1980 and remembered the name of the street the cells overlooked, vicolo della Malinconia (Melancholy alley).
The restoration in the early eighties brought this massive building back to its original aspect, whilst maintaining evidence of the transformations it underwent over time. In particular the 15th century portico was rediscovered, divided into four pointed arches supported by brick columns and a wooden loggia overlooking the lake.
After the restoration it became the seat of the District Court, then the Civil Court House and finally a cultural foundation which now uses it for exhibitions and events.
For more information:
VITALI G., L’antico Arsenale degli Oldofredi di Iseo e la sua storia (sec. XV/XX), in “Quaderni Camuni: rivista trimestrale di storia, arte e cronaca locale”, A. IV (1981), n. 13, 1981, pp. 56-57.
BREDA A., VALSECCHI A., Il volto urbano di Iseo, in BINO T. et alii, Iseo e le Torbiere, Brescia 1990, pp. 23-29.
Archeologia urbana in Iseo, a cura di U.S.P.A.A.A., Rodengo Saiano 1993, pp. 23-24, 49-58.
VALSECCHI A., Archeologia urbana in Iseo, in Casa abitationis nostre: archeologia dell’edilizia medievale nelle province di Bergamo e Brescia, atti del seminario di studi, Brescia, 8 giugno 2009, a cura di M. Sannazaro e D. Gallina, Bergamo 2011, pp. 158-159.
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