The CISM building is commonly called Palazzo Mangilli-del Torso, but it would be more correct to call it Palazzo Antonini-Mangilli-del Torso.
A house in the location of the CISM building is first mentioned in a rental agreement of February 22nd 1447, between the owner Erasmo degli Erasmi “decretorum doctor” and the user, master Giovanni the dyer. According to the agreement, the house was positioned “just outside the Grazzano gate” (the gate at the beginning of the contemporary Via Cesare Battisti), opposite to the open spaces which later became Piazza dei Barnabiti (now Piazza Garibaldi).
Piazza dei Barnabiti di Udine (G.B. Cecchini, litho,1843)
The location was a very good one for dyers, because of a small canal flowing through (This canal still flows today, even it is now covered). The use of the canal, however, caused many an argument between nearby dyers. On December 17th 1452, in fact, after frequent brawls between Erasmo and a certain Andrea, son of Francesco Zani from Spilimbergo, it was decided that Erasmo “should be conceded a suitable place to build his own washhouse”.
For some time afterwards, we have no further mention of the Erasmo’s house: we only know that, towards the end of the fifteenth century, the son of Erasmo, Ambrogio, lived in Borgo Grazzano “prope rugiam” (i.e. nearby the canal). We also know that, on March 16th 1518, the house was rented to Giovanni Fontana (a Lombard architect living in Venice, who had come to Udine to rebuild the castle destroyed by the earthquake of 1511).
At about the middle of the sixteenth century, the Antonini family acquired the property of the house. A stone inside says that the present building was begun in 1577, on the decision of the nobleman Andrea who was married to the noblewoman Felicita Hofer of Duino.
It is also know that, in the seventeenth century, Alfonso Antonini, the celebrated warrior and poet, inhabited the house. (His brother Giacomo Antonini, who was no less famous as cavalry captain, governor of Udine and brilliant orator, also lived there).
The historian Capodagli states that Alfonso “joined with other literary personages in 1606 and instituted the noble Accademia degli Sventati” (Academy of the Reckless, that later became the still active Academy of Sciences, Letters and Arts of Udine). He made his house a worthy meeting place and so, to the universal consent of the Members of the Academy, he was made the first “Prince” (now we would rather say President). The Academy had its seat there until 1653, before moving to several different places and, only recently, coming back to its original seat at the CISM building.
The CISM building remained for several centuries the residence of the Antonini family, who gradually enriched it with precious paintings, a rich collection of statues and Roman fragments from Aquileia. Among those who lived there was Giacomo’s son Daniele who married the rich heiress Caterina Mantica (the sister of Carlo Mantica, who in 1680 built Udine’s first theatre, called “Teatro Mantica”, on some land he owned near the Cathedral).
In 1744 the Albini family also lived there. They were distant relatives of the owners: a great grand daughter of Caterina’s, Maria Antonietta Mantica, had married a certain Maffio Albini in 1732. The last descendant of this branch of the Antonini family was another Caterina, also a rich heiress. In 1733 she became the wife of the nobleman Francesco Papafava dei Carraresi, knight of St. Stephen, but wanted her descendants to add her surname to their own. She did not retain the ownership of the property, however, but preferred to sell it to the Mangilli family in 1746. The buyer was a certain Giovanni Battista, a native of Bergamo who had come to Udine as a “young salesman”. He later became a shopkeeper and was so rich that he left a patrimony of two hundred ducats. Once he had taken up residence in the prestigious house, he spent there the rest of his life, proud that his son Benedetto followed in his footsteps and showed himself to be an equally successful businessman.
The excellent social position of the Mangilli family is also proved by the many works of art, including pictures by Francesco Floreani and Sebastiano Bombelli, that still embellish the building or have been recorded by various sources.
If it is true that the, by now, palace was altered in the eighteenth century, we can attribute to the Mangilli family the initiative. Probably the restorations and modifications were carried out at different stages: for example the careful subdivision of the rooms was planned by Andrea Scala in 1847, when the internal constructions overlooking the vegetable garden were destined to other uses. As late as 1837, in fact, the Mangilli family had a forge and a shop on the ground floor, and a chapel with a painted vault on the first floor.
The palace had its moment of national glory on March 1st 1867, when Giuseppe Garibaldi came to Udine. Antonio Picco, journalist, described the event in these terms:
“The city was decorated for a holiday, the houses bedecked with flags, the streets full of local citizens and visitors; Garibaldi’s men were toing and froing, wearing their red shirts; a corps of them were standing as guards of honour outside the Mangilli palace, where General Garibaldi, who was coming to visit our city that day, was to stay”.
A commission of Garibaldi’s officers and other distinguished citizens, headed by Giovanni Battista Cella, went to the hall of the Udine railway station to receive the General. At both sides of the hall were Garibaldi’s men and the veterans of 1848/49; there was also a Company of the National Guard, Udine City Band, and other bands from the Province. Finally, the fanfare signalled Garibaldi’s arrival and loud cheers rang out from all the onlookers. The General came out of the station accompanied by Benedetto Cairoli, Colonel Cucchi and Friar Pantaleo. He got into his coach and Giovanni Battista Cella was with him. The General made his entrance in Udine through the Aquileia Gate (still existing at the beginning of Via Aquileia), accompanied by numerous people acclaiming, with enthusiastic cheers, his name and the reborn Italy.
When Garibaldi reached the palace of Marquis Mangilli, the citizens filling the square called him to the balcony, applauding without cease. He came out to greet the people and gave a brief speech, touching on the events that led to the freedom and unification of Italy, but speaking also of what Italians still had to do to make Rome their capital. The event is commemorated by a stone placed on the facade of the CISM building in 1882, on the death of Garibaldi: “AT THE PROUD ANNOUNCEMENT / GARIBALDI IS DEAD / THE PEOPLE OF UDINE / IN THE SACRED HARMONY OF GRIEF / WRITE INDELEBLY / MARCH 1st 1877 / WHEN / FROM THIS BUILDING / THE GREAT HERO / SPOKE OF COUNTRY AND GLORY”.
The slender central window
At the beginning of the 20th century, the palace was partly given over to other uses before being purchased, in 1924, by Count Alessandro del Torso who moved there with his family. The last great society event which took place in the rooms of the Palazzo del Torso, “in an atmosphere of discretion and great hauteur among the guests”, was the sumptuous ball organized in honour of the Prince of Piedmont, who visited Udine in 1935.
Count Alessandro del Torso ceded the palace to the Udine Municipality “with the expressed wish that it should be devoted to cultural activities”. Thus, in agreement with the count’s widow, the Municipality gave the use of to CISM, at the foundation of the Centre in late 1968. The splendid park near the palace was preserved by a ministerial decree, and sold in spring 1970 to the Udine Municipality by the count’s widow. It is now a public park, a truly pleasant green oasis of about 3,000 square metres in the heart of the city.