The Royal Spanish College in Bologna, Italy

Bolonia, Italia, , .
Medal/Award in the category Conservation in the year 2012.

Dating of the building: 1364 - 1367.

Applicant: José Guillermo García Valdecasas, Rector.

Reason for the award :

The jury has admired the beauty and detail of the careful restoration, especially that of the frescoes, as well as the courage and perseverance to maintain the momentum and, at the same time, the financial effort over such a long period.

The College of Spain in Bologna is the only medieval university college remaining in continental Europe.

The Colegio de España, founded by Cardinal Don Gil de Albornoz in 1364 and built according to his plans in Bologna, is the only medieval university college remaining in continental Europe. Despite being a private charitable foundation – much older than the Spanish State – without external subsidies of any kind, in 1890, the Spanish Ministry of State (now Foreign Affairs) took it over, leading it to total ruin. The Albornoz family, Patron of the College according to the Statutes of Don Gil, managed to rescue it (1914-1916) and restore it to its purpose. The foundation, although then in hardship, had a brilliant century thanks to the academic achievements of its scholarship holders.

The award-winning task began in 1978 with the economic reconstruction, and, at the same time, the study of the modifications introduced over half a millennium in the building, considered today a highly relevant precedent of Renaissance civil architecture. Fortunately, the College preserves its documentation almost intact from the 14th century. It contains – with date, cost, and materials used, as well as some craftsmen – walls and plasters, floors and roofs, sewers and basements, arches and lintels, etc. As the institute’s income grew, it was also possible to subject masonry and decorations of questionable age to luminescence dating and chemical analysis of pigments. Further inquiries demonstrated the formidable robustness of the structure. On the other hand, when the building was modernised, from gas onwards, cuts were made in the original epidermis, damaging the plasterwork. It was necessary to repair them with grafts of contemporary bricks and lime stucco with blonde sand. Countless similar works followed.

Today, from the cellars to the roof, there is hardly anything in the building that has not undergone extensive restoration. The accounting books of the College also report large payments in the 14th and 16th centuries to great painters whose works were not visible. Finding them and freeing them from everything that covered them – be it simple whitewashing or neo-Gothic falsehood – was going to be a long and satisfying task: even traces of frescoes were discovered at the beginning of the 20th century  – such as those of Anibale Carracci -, which brought to light others by Andrea da Bartoli, Lippo di Dalmazia (14th century), Biagio Pupini, ‘Tommaso’ (Laureti?), and a piece by Lorenzo Sabattini discovered after the award.

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