The Olympic Theater, the first and oldest covered theater of the modern era, intended as the historical period of the Middle Ages, prior to the contemporary age. It was the last great work of the architect Andrea Palladio, who started it for the Olympic Academy, of which he was a member, at the end of February 1580, just a few months before he died.

The Olympic Theater

The Olympic Academy is an ancient cultural institution in Vicenza, dedicated to the promotion and celebration through teaching courses and various manifestations of the culture and artistic life of the city and its territory.

The Olympic Theater

The building built a few meters from the Chiericati palace, in what was once the Isola Square, because two important rivers of the city, the Bacchiglione and the Retrone, converged at its center. The construction of the theater, which was granted within an existing medieval complex, the Castle of the Territory, was commissioned mainly for the staging of classic comedies.

The structure was an old fortress with a medieval structure, several times renovated and modified, and almost always used over time as a prison and powder keg, before its decline. After the death of Andrea Palladio in 1580, the works were carried out on the basis of some notes left to his son Silla and ended around 1584.

The Olympic Theater

During this period, however, a problem arose, namely, that of creating a "prospective" scene, which had been foreseen from the beginning by the Academy, but of which the architect had not left a real project. In urgency another well-known architect from Vicenza was called, Vincenzo Scamozzi, who designed some impressive wooden scenes, above all for their perspective illusionism and for their attention to detail.

These were made of wood and stucco for temporary use, however they were never removed and, despite the dangers of fire and war bombings, they have miraculously been preserved to the present day, becoming unique witnesses of their time.

The Olympic Theater

The Olympic Theater was inaugurated on March 3, 1585, with the representation of the Oedipus king of Sophocles, an ancient Greek playwright, and on this occasion, as happened later, the scenes representing the seven streets of the city of Thebes, a important place of Greek mythology, for the stories of Cadmo, Oedipus, Dionysus and others, they were illuminated with an original and complex system of artificial lights, always thought by Scamozzi.

The Olympic Theater

An extraordinary work, a dream of generations of humanists and Renaissance architects, with this project Palladio rebuilds a large Roman theater, thanks to a careful study of the text by Vitruvius and the ruins of the structures of the ancient theaters. The Roman construction is enhanced by the details of the double-order proscenium, with large newsstands that cover the statues of the members of the Olympic Academy.

The Olympic Theater

Divided into three registers, it presents itself in the lower one with a large triumphal arch in the center, the royal door, and on the sides two narrower doors, the hospitalia, all decorated with statues and marble metopes in high reliefs, which narrate the exploits of Hercules.

Above the triumphal arch we find the coat of arms of the city of Vicenza and the Latin word motto of the Academy, "Hoc opus, hic labor est", a Latin phrase which means, Here is the difficulty, here is what has tired you.


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