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In 1200 the Commune expropriated several houses and churches in order to create today's Piazza Maggiore, thus laying the foundation for the first compound of palaces specifically built for public administrative functions: Palazzo del Podestà, di Re Enzo e del Capitano del Popolo.
Also called "new palace" to differentiate it from the Podestà palace, King Enzo Palace was built between 1244-46 (at the same time than the palace of Podestà, or people's captain) as an extension of Municipal buildings. Just three years later it became the 'residence' of the King taken prisoner in the battle of Fossalta: King Enzo of Sardinia, son of Frederick II. In the upper of the three original stories the King was assigned a large room, where he spent his remaining twenty three years of life, until his death in1279. Several legends were born and reported in popular literature around the mythical figure of the prisoner King: as a ransom for his son, the father had seemingly offered the people of Bologna enough gold to encircle their town walls; also a story is told that the King had made an escape hidden inside a "brenta" or cask, foiled by a woman who had cried out "scappa, scappa!" - he 's running away - thus being rewarded by the town with the honour of using the surname of Scappi. On the ground floor the war equipment of the Commune were kept and stored, alongside the Carroccio. A covered staircase leads to the open gallery on the first storey, where the meetings of the people's councils were once held.
The Sala del Trecento, made by Antonio di Vincenzo in 1386, was subsequently used as municipal archives, while the upper storey underwent a thorough renovation in 1771 with G. G. Dotti. The restoration carried out 1905 by Alfonso Rubbiani was also quite relevant in the case of Re Enzo Palace as his purpose consisted in highlighting the Gothic outlook of the building to the detriment of later additions, as for instances the ones made by Dotti. According to retrieved traces and contemporary sources, he renovated the façade, had the crenellation rebuilt, together with the ground-floor arches and the 15th-century staircase. The passageway to the Chapel of S. Maria dei Carcerati where the people sentenced to death were led to pray opens on the right-hand side of the palace.
Source: local site of Bologna