Die Fresken des Palazzo Spreca : Oder: Päpstliche Autorität und kommunaler Gehorsam im Viterbo des 15. Jahrhunderts
In the 1470s, Domenico Spreca, a citizen of Viterbo, commissioned a cycle of virtues for the sala on the upper floor of his palazzo. From 2012 to 2018, the frescoes, largely unknown in (art) historical research, were the subject of legal proceedings and, on a regional level, of public debate over the preservation of cultural heritage. Over these years, it became clear that objects not only require financial resources to protect and preserve them over the centuries, but also need to be part of a narrative. Such a narrative was lost at an early stage, although the frescoes bear extraordinary witness to the negotiation processes of the 15th century concerning political virtues. In this paper, I argue that the cycle of virtues should be interpreted as an allegory of good government. Domenico Spreca addressed the conditions of loyalty (fidelitas)/obedience (oboedientia) on the one hand and the authority (auctoritas) of the superiores – the Pope, the Curia and the Rector of the Patrimonium Petri in Tuscia – on the other. To facilitate comprehension of this interpretation, the frescoes will be embedded in the political culture of Viterbo. To this end, their interpretation will be preceded by observations on the institutional establishment of papal authority in the city and on how its citizens dealt with it in the 1450s and 1460s: an authority that they legitimised on the basis of its pacification of factional struggles within the city and demanded for this purpose, from which they benefited and whose arbitrariness they attempted to curtail.
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