The splendid Biblioteca Planettiana, in Jesi’s Palazzo della Signoria – built between 1486 and 1498 according to designs by Siena-born architect Francesco di Giorgio Martini – is traditionally considered a symbol of the freedom of the city in Marche.
Another icon dear to the city is Frederick II, the “wonder of the world” who was born in Jesi on December 26, 1194. His mother, Costanza d’Altavilla, had him while she was traveling to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, where her husband Henry VI reigned. The emperor was eager to see his wife, and even more to welcome the son she was carrying, his first son and heir to the imperial crown. However, Costanza went into labor earlier than expected, and Frederick II was not born in Palermo as his father wished.
In a letter he wrote in 1239, the man whom Dante described as the “latest puissance” of the House of Swabia (“Paradise”, Canto III, 120) was confident enough to compare his own birth to Jesus’s, and to call Jesi “Bethlehem” – following in a centuries-old tradition of comparing the emperor to a god on Earth, using definitions such as “Cooperator Dei” and “Vicarius constitutus in terris”.
Frederick II wrote to the city: “For the same reasons, and naturally, we tend and are compelled to love Jesi – this noble city in Marche, the illustrious beginning of our lives, the land where our luminous mothers gave birth to us, where our cribs shone bright, our Bethlehem […] which is stamped on our minds and deeply rooted in our hearts. You, Bethlehem in Marche, are not the smallest amongst the cities of our lineage. You were, in fact, the place that originated the prince of the Roman Empire called to reign over and protect your people, and to prevent you ever being subdued by an enemy again.”
Let’s now visit this palace of freedom, and its beautiful library.