1555 – The Foundation

The Accademia Olimpica was established in 1555 when a group of 21 citizens decided to start an institution quite different from those already existing in the local area.
Already in existence were the Accademia founded by GianGiorgio Trissino, based in the suburban villa of Cricoli, and the Accademia dei Costanti, founded by Canon Gerolamo Gualdo, based in an art-rich palace on Pusterla Street.
The novelty lay mainly in its composition: the Accademia degli Olimpici was composed not only by the aristocrats but also by those who had distinguished themselves in classical literature (Greek and Latin) or arts.
This change was made on the purpose to ensure vitality and constant cultural enrichment.
Indeed, the founders wanted to cultivate all kind of arts, including weapon practice and music, although there was a preference for mathematical sciences.
For this reason, philosophers, mathematicians, physicians, cosmographers, and architects read their contributions at academic gatherings.

Among the Academicians appear, in addition to Valerio Chiericati and Girolamo da Schio – who were the initiators – Anton Maria Angiolelli, Conte Da Monte, Giacomo Pagello, Giuseppe Ovetari, Elio and Silvio Belli, Andrea Palladio, Bernardino Trinagio, Vincenzo Magrè, and, shortly afterwards, the famous painters Antonio Fasolo and Gian Battista Maganza, also famous as a vernacular poet.

1585 – Il Teatro Olimpico – The Olympic Theater

ssAt first, the members met in the house of da Porto or in the house of Elio Belli in Vicenza. The mythical chariot race of Olympia was chosen as the “enterprise” of the Academy, and “Hoc opus hic labor est” as its motto.

Theatrical performance was a favorite activity. Hence the idea of a permanent theater arose, and Andrea Palladio matured the project of the Teatro Olimpico. At the same time, investigations began to give the Academy a fixed seat, which was identified in the “loco delle prigioni vecchie” (the old prisons) requested in cession to the city of Vicenza. The new theater was financed by the academicians themselves, who in return got their own statue placed inside, in a more or less visible position depending on the contribution paid.

Palladio prepared the preliminary drawings but did not complete the project, which was accomplished by his son Silla and architect Vincenzo Scamozzi. Architect Scamozzi also drew up plans for the stage perspectives.

Right from the start the Teatro Olimpico became an example for à l’ancienne theaters throughout Europe.

Work was completed in 1585, and the theater was inaugurated with a performance of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, which was an unprecedented success. In later years, rooms for academic gatherings were annexed to the Theater: the so-called “Odeo” is still in use today for events promoted by the Institution.

1585 – 1927

The life of the Olympic Academy continued during the following centuries amid cultural and social events. Regular schools of horsemanship, weapons handling, literature and science continued within the Academy.
In 1741 the School of Experimental Philosophy took shape. Its inception was facilitated by a city grant from donations from Monte di Pietà (the ancient bank/pawnshop).
The School’s purpose was to focus on all forms of culture. In 1786 Goethe expressed the desire to attend one of its events.

The fall of the Venetian Republic and subsequent foreign rule determined difficult times for the Accademia Olimpica. To obviate the consequences of the Napoleonic decree of 1810, the Academy preferred to cede its seat, theater and adjoining buildings to the city of Vicenza in 1813, while securing its perpetual use.
Years of inactivity followed; in 1843, however, the imperial royal government granted the reactivation of the Academy under the title “Accademia Olimpica di scienze, lettere ed arti” (Olympic Academy of science, literature and arts). A period of cultural and political ferment began. The presence among the academicians of Camillo Franco and Valentino Pasini pointed the way toward the new liberal ideas, from which the Risorgimento would initiate.
Cultural renewal had an intense beginning in 1851 with the presidency of Francesco Secondo Beggiato.

In 1857 a meteorological (meteoric) observatory arose, directed first by Beggiato himself and then by Almerico da Schio, who was its moderator for more than 60 years. In 1858, on the initiative mainly of Fedele Lampertico, a School of Drawing and Plastics for the People arose, which, supported by institutions and private individuals, remained until 1927 under the direct dependence of the Academy.

During this period the presidents were Fedele Lampertico, Giacomo Zanella, Antonio Fogazzaro and Almerico da Schio. After Da Schio’s death, General of the Army Giuseppe Vaccari was appointed rector.

1930 – TODAY

During the war, the new president Antonio Mosconi had to face a tragic situation: in 1943, when the last meeting of the institution took place, the life of the Academy came to an end.
Also, due to a bombing in 1944, the Observatory was destroyed and “all the expensive equipment, it spilled over onto the premises used as the Academy’s headquarters, everything overwhelming and destroying.”
Archive and library, with its 20,000 volumes, went missing. The Olympic Theater remained miraculously unscathed.

After the liberation, for about three years the Academy had an extraordinary commissarial management in the person of Ascanio Pagello. Since 1949 have been elected to the role of president Egidio Tosato, a member of Parliament and member of the Constituent Assembly, and, 10 years later, Mariano Rumor, Prime Minister of the Italian Republic. The Academy was thus emerging from the troubled period of postwar and reconstruction.

In 1990, when Rumor, who had been president for 31 years, passed away, he was briefly succeeded by Giorgio Oliva.
Since 1991 followed: Alessandro Faedo (1991-1994), Lorenzo Pellizzari (1995-2002), Fernando Bandini (2003-2010), Luigi Franco Bottio (2011-2014), Marino Breganze (2015-2016), Gaetano Thiene (2016-2022), and Giovanni Luigi Fontana (2023-in office).





Accademia Olimpica ETS
Largo Goethe, 3
36100 Vicenza - ITALY
Tel 0444 324376
C.F.: 00417160249
Opening Time

Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday
10.00/13.00 a.m.