A trip to Jesi, a city in the middle of history | Marche travelling

Jesi is a city located halfway between the mountains and the sea. A place you should absolutely discover. Why? Let’s find out together and retrace its history.

According to tradition, it was founded by Esio, the king of the Pelasgians, who gave to Jesi the symbol of a rampant lion. The foundation of Jesi is actually due to the Umbrians; later the Etruscans who extended their dominion to the Adriatic Sea, conquered the city.

In the fourth century, the river Esino became the southern border of the natural dominion of the Gauls, which transformed Jesi in the last stronghold of defence against the Piceni.

Jesi was transformed into a colonia civium romanorum with the battle of Sentino in 295 B.C. with which Rome finally defeated the Italic peoples. The municipium of Aesis was created in this way: it is characterized by an urban structure corresponding to the model of the Castrum, an intact model, although it is currently blended with the signs of the monuments of the later medieval city.

With the dissolution of the Western Roman Empire, Jesi was included in the twelfth byzantine province of the Mediterranean Pentapolis. In 756, together with other cities, it was under the jurisdiction of the church and so the Popes’ temporal power started. With the coronation as Emperor of Charlemagne in 800, Jesi was under the imperial jurisdiction though belonging to the Church and became part of the new county of Marca.

In 999 the Emperor Ottone III gave back eight counties including Jesi to the Church. From this period the feudal structure of the city took its shape.

Around 1130 Jesi became a free municipality with its own self-government, the Podestà, the Consuls and the School of Arts and Crafts. The preparation of the Statutes occurred at the same time of the construction of the Podestà‘s palaces, the town hall and the Cathedral dedicated to Saint Septimius. During the XII century and the next one, the walls were fortified on the track of those of Roman times.

An episode happened during these years was crucial: in fact, the city had also the honour of giving birth to the emperor Federico II in 1194. During a trip to Palermo, as a legend told us, the Empress Constance had to stop the journey in the beautiful city of the Marches and gave birth to his son in the current main square of the city.

For the occasion, in the square known as piazza Federico II a canopy was erected and Federico was born in front of authorities and citizens. When adult, in August 1239, the emperor sent a letter to the inhabitants of Jesi expressing his love and sense of protection toward his native city which he entitled “Royal City“.

The successful policies of Jesi were linked to the ones of Federico II and his sons Enzo and Manfredi over years with the obtaining of “imperial privileges” followed by unavoidable “ecclesiastical excommunications”.

The crisis of Municipal Institutions and the subsequent advent of powerful families like those of Malatesta, Braccio da Montone, of Francesco Sforza started the age of the Lordship.

In 1447, Francesco Sforza gave Jesi to the Church selling it to the Pope. The end of the period and the recomposition of the municipal planning started a great economic, demographic recovery and especially an increase in the construction industry of the city. Starting from the second half of the XV century, the architecture of the city changed deeply with the construction of new churches and palaces and the progressive urban expansion out of the old walls.

The strengthening of the defensive system carried out by the Florentine Baccio Pontelli and the construction on the project of the Palazzo della Signoria, one of the most beautiful monumental building of the march by Francesco di Giorgio Martini from Siena, date back to this period.

In addition to the economic recovery and the increase in the construction industry, a cultural revival occurred: Lorenzo Lotto from Venice painted for some churches of the city some masterpieces of art and spirituality; in 1472 Federico de’ Conti from Verona printed one of the earliest editions of the Divine Comedy in Jesi and Ciccolino from Lucagnolo, a refined engraver and teacher of Benvenuto Cellini, developed and perfected the art of goldsmithing.

Towards the end of 500, once the local oligarchy had established in the class of landowners, claimed the political and administrative power that held until the second half of the 700.

In 1797 Napoleonic troops put an end both to the aristocratic monopoly and to the control over the countryside.

Two of the most significant historical references for the XVIII century are the following: the transformation of architectural and urban planning of the city and the birth of Giambattista Pergolesi and Gaspare Spontini, two great personalities in the music field that became famous throughout Europe.

In 1808, with the annexation of the Marches to the Kingdom of Napoleon, Jesi became one of the district capitals of the Department of Metauro. After the restoration in 1815, a both laic and bourgeois idea of State started to take shape.

In the early decades of 800, a gradual process of industrialisation began in Jesi with the birth of the first silk factories. The events of the Risorgimento leading to the unification of Italy involved several personalities from Jesi including the Marquis Antonio Colocci. He was elected in 1849 as the representative of the Province of Ancona to the Constituent Assembly of the Roman Republic, and then, after the Unification, as a deputy and Senator of the Kingdom.

On 15 September 1860 the bersaglieri entered in Jesi whereas five days later, in Castelfidardo, the defeat of the papal army carried out by the Piedmont troops sanctioned the final union of the town to the Kingdom of Italy.

Jesi is now defined by UNESCO a “model city” for the preservation of artistic and architectural treasures. It is surrounded by wonderful vineyards that give life to the Verdicchio and its art gallery hosts five works of Lorenzo Lotto. Jesi can be considered as a perfect combination of art, history and culture that makes it an unmissable and unique stop.

Beatrice Perroni