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Romolo Spezioli Civic Library

The room constitutes the original nucleus of Romolo Spezioli Civic Library, one of the oldest and most fascinating libraries in Italy. Named after the personal physician to Queen Christina of Sweden, Fermo-born Romolo Spezioli, it expanded over the centuries, from the Globe Room into adjacent Palazzo degli Studi, seat of the city’s university.

Initial construction of what would later become Palazzo degli Studi dates back to 1238: at the time, the building, which was destined to become the seat and residence of the podesta (chief magistrate), was on just one floor. Until the middle of the 16th century, it gradually took on other functions: it housed the Bargello or mediaeval police chief, a prison, the Order of Notaries and the Order of the Administration of Justice.

In September 1585, only five months after his election, Pope Sixtus V granted Fermo a Sistine Bull, thanks to which the city’s university returned to its former splendour. Therefore, when the building was chosen as the new seat of the university, an extension of Palazzo degli Studi was necessary.

The modifications were designed by architect Girolamo Rainaldi in 1586. The original idea was to have a large monumental brick façade, now covered in yellow ochre plastering. The intention was to create a regular backdrop for the square, forming a harmonious architectural ensemble with Palazzo dei Priori. A main floor was built with a large elongated hall in the centre, windows, a portal and a central tabernacle housing the statue of the patron saint of the city of Fermo, Santa Maria Assunta, sculpted by Paolo da Venezia. The round-arched entrance in the central part of the façade is the only place where the ancient terracotta brickwork can still be seen. The building is topped by an elegant rib vault, with a clock and a triangular tympanum.

On the ground floor, the ancient portico was transformed into a series of rooms that today house the Children’s Section of the Civic Library. The four windows on the first floor are decorated with busts of the four Popes traditionally associated with the history of the ancient University of Fermo: Boniface VIII, Eugene IV, Calixtus III and Sixtus V. These are respectively the institute’s istitutor, benefactor, confirmator and restitutor.

Palazzo degli Studi remained the seat of the University of Fermo until 1826.

Romolo Spezioli Civic Library is a popular destination for researchers and scholars, who travel from around the world in search of richly-illuminated codices, extremely rare printed editions and a comprehensive graphic arts collection.

The collections contain a total of around 3,000 manuscripts, 127 codices and 300,000 documents, including over 800 historical magazines, 5,000 drawings and 6,500 engravings, coins, seals, 681 incunabula, more than 15,000 16th-century editions, 23,000 miscellaneous editions and numerous 17th and 18th-century editions and music pamphlets.

Compared to the original nucleus, constituted thanks to the bequest of Fermo-born patrician Paolo Ruffo, the book heritage has been added to significantly over the centuries, thanks to donations and purchases. These have made it possible to constitute a precious antique collection that makes Fermo Civic Library one of the most prestigious in central Italy.

The most important is the one named after Romolo Spezioli (1642-1723) who, thanks precisely to the influence of Cardinal Azzolino, became a trusted physician to Queen Christina of Sweden.

Among the most precious jewels of the library collection is an incunabulum: it is the editio princeps of the letter written in 1493 by Christopher Columbus to the royal treasurer of Spain, Gabriele Sanchez, informing him of his discovery, of which only two copies are known. Also noteworthy is the Book of Hours (15th century), which presumably had belonged to Christina of Sweden. Donations made in the 20th century include the printed works and drawings owned by Fermo-born architect Giovanni Battista Carducci (1806-1878), which today make up almost the entire special Prints and Drawings collection. Over the centuries, the library has continued to collect documents on medicine and today, is an authoritative international benchmark for historical studies on the subject.