The stately Palazzo Lanfranchi was built by Francesco da Copertin, a monk belonging to the Order of the Capuchins, between 1668 and 1672 for use as the diocesan Seminary, on the orders of the Archbishop of Matera, Vincenzo Lanfranchi, as decreed by the Council of Trent, which provided for a theological college in every diocese.
Built on the site of the former monastery of the Carmelite Fathers, whose Order was suppressed in 1652, the building continued function as a seminary until 1864.
It became the State property of the Government of Piedmont after the Unification of Italy, when it ceased to be a theological college and became the headquarters of the Classical Grammar School and the National Boarding School. The poet Giovanni Pascoli, amongst others, taught there from 1882 to 1884.
At present Palazzo Lanfranchi also houses the National Museum of Mediaeval and Modern Art and the Centro Carlo Levi, where there is a large collection of works by the Turinese painter, primarily depicting scenes from the Lucano peasant world, and from the D’Errico collection.
On the Palazzo’s Piano Nobile, the Museum is divided into three sections: Religious Art, the Art of Collecting and Contemporary Art, all of which rotate and alternate the works on view, sometimes along correlating themes.
On the ground floor of the building, the corridors around the cloister lead to the Documentation Centre, which consists of a specialist Library, the Catalogue and the Photographic Library, open to both the general public and researchers, some large reception rooms and the Bookshop. The Carlo Levi rooms, where the huge “Lucania ‘61” panel presented by the artist to the city of Turin to mark the centenary of the Unification of Italy is exhibited, are used for cultural events and temporary exhibitions.
The façade, made of local stone, is composed of two orders and makes for a harmonious elevation, incorporating the entrance to the Seminary and the former Church of the Carmine. 9 arches, only one of which is open and the others blind, articulate the upper half. There are 5 statues in niches on the front: St. Nicholas on the left, the Virgin Mary top centre, St. Philip Neri, St. Hyacinth and St. Charles Borromeo on the right.
The steps lead to a long corridor, leading in turn to a beautiful C17th cloister with a sundial dating from the second half of the C17th and busts of benefactors who gave generously towards the building of this grand palace: Bishop Lanfranchi and his three brothers, Bishops Brancaccio and Del Ryos and Duke Marco Malvinni Malvezzi, a generous patron, in the entrance hall leading from Piazzetta Pascoli.