With the election of Modena as the capital of the Este dukedom, an intense period of feverish construction began in order to adapt the small city to its new role. While the work carried out on the Este buildings is well known, this study examines the consequences of the dukes’ arrival, analysing the reconfiguration of Modena through a systematic interpretation of the construction projects which the aristocratic families undertook at the beginning of the 17th century in order to ensure their favour with the Este family and assert their own ambitions within the renewed court. The renovated and more often expanded structures provide interesting information on certain architectural aspects that came to characterise the capital, but above all they represent the introduction of new hierarchies in urban spaces, where the definition of the new ducal residence seems to dictate the changes.
The systematic study of the residences is based on published sources, through the detailed examination of archival documents, and on the city chronicles that provide an overview of the most significant transformations. The data has been correlated and interpreted also in relation to location within the city. If the information, often fragmented, does not always allow for an adequate interpretation of the individual episodes of construction, then an integrated and comparative reading provides multiple suggestions for understanding the result of a larger phenomenon that contributed to the city’s reorganisation.
Keywords: Urban transformation, Modena, 1598, Este, Este dukedom.