essential architecture
essential site map


top ten world architecture
image use
  Essential Architecture-  Vicenza

Teatro Olimpico


Andrea Palladio


Vicenza, Italy




High Italian Rennaisance


masonry, cut stone 


  Detail of the wooden scene designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi.
  The entrance to the teathre from Piazza Matteotti in Vicenza.

The Palladian proscenio.

The Teatro Olimpico ("Olympic Theatre") is a theatre in Vicenza, northern Italy, designed by the Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. It is widely considered the first example of covered theatre of the Modern age.

The teathre was commissioned in 1580 by the Vicenza Accademia Olimpica ("Olympic Academy")for the eastern part of the city. Construction began that year, and the building was inaugurated on March 3, 1585, after the completion of the famous scenes by Vincenzo Scamozzi. These are the sole Renaissance structures of that kind to have survived until contemporary times.

Together with other Palladian buildings in Vicenza, the teathre is included in the UNESCO World Heritages Sites list.

Lights used by Scamozzi for the very first spectacle.

The Olympic teathre is the last work by Palladio, and ranks amongs his highest masterworks. The Vicentine architect had returned to his native city in 1579, bringing with him long studies on the classical theatres, based on the Vitruvius' De architectura and the personal inspection of the Roman ruins (notably the Teatro Berga in Vicenza).

Palladio, a founder of the Olympic Academy (created in 1555) had already designed provisional scenes settings in various places of the city, until in 1579 the Academy obtained the concession for a place where to build a stable theatre. This was an old Mediaeval fortress, utilized as prison and powder store until being abandoned.

Palladio died shortly after the beginning of works. These, however, could be continued basing on his sketches and drawings, and in 1584 the cavea, with loggia and proscenio, were finished. Palladio had not left any projecy for the prospectic scene, and the other Vicentine architect Vincenzo Scamozzi was called for it. Scamozzi was also responsible of the Odčo and Antiodčo rooms, as well as the original entrance portal.

The teathre was inaugurated on March 3, 1585, with the representation of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex. The scenes, which had been realized in wood and stucco for a temporary use, were never removed: despite bombings and other vicissitudes, they have miraculously preserved until modern days.

The Olympic Teathre is currently the seat for spectacles in Summer, being not provided with a heating system which could damage the delicate wood structures, and for a limited audience