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Teatro Olimpico (Vicenza, 16th century)

Teatro Olimpico (Vicenza, 16th century)

The first indoor theatre in modern history to be constructed according to the theatre-building codes of Antiquity was inaugurated in 1585.

Visual Arts


Teatro Olimpico, Vicenza, Palladio, architecture, Scamozzi, building, theatre, indoor theatre, Renaissance, World Heritage, stereoscopic, stage scenery, antique, perspective

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The ‘modern antique’ theatre

Teatro Olimpico, situated in the city of Vicenza, Italy, is the first indoor theatre in modern history to be constructed according to the theatre-building codes of Antiquity.

The Accademica Olimpica had the building designed by Andrea Palladio. The construction began in 1580; however, Palladio died before completing the theatre. Thus one of his most famous masterpieces became his last one. The building was inaugurated in 1585.

The architect – as with his other works – aimed to create a sophisticated perspective structure in this permanent theatre.

The plans of the building were based on the reconstruction of the ancient Roman theatre in Orange (France). The oval and terraced auditorium may host up to 1,000 spectators.

Teatro Olimpico had survived the events of the upcoming centuries, and today it is the oldest standing Renessaince theatre. In 1994, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site.

Teatro Olimpico today


Stage of Teatro Olimpico

Based on the drafts and drawings of Palladio – who died shortly after the construction started –, the loggia, the cavea and the lobby were finished by 1584.

However, as no drawings remained after the master died regarding the stage scenery, this task was given to another local architect, Vincenzo Scamozzi.
The stage scenery was designed by him.

In the foreground is a triumphal arch decorated with the statues of the famous members of Accademica Olimpica. Three gates are also built onstage, through which perspectively formed make-believe houses can be seen.
Most of the original scenery is still visible.

The opening play of the permanent theatre was Oedipus the King by Sophocles in 1585.
Later on, film directors discovered the scenery as well; most of the scenes of the famous film Casanova were shot here.

Stage scenery of Teatro Olimpico



The Teatro Olimpico (Olympic Theatre) is located in the city of Vicenza, Italy. Built in the 16th century, this theatre was one of the first enclosed theatres in modern history to be constructed according to the theatre-building codes of Antiquity.

This is a truly unique building as it houses the oldest Renaissance theatre still in use.

Construction began in 1580 according to the designs of Andrea Palladio. Unfortunately, the legendary architect did not live to see the opening of the theatre in 1585. The final stages of the work were supervised by his contemporary from Vicenza, Vincenzo Scamozzi.

Before finalising the plans, Palladio closely studied the architecture of Antique theatres (primarily based on Vitruvius' work) and also investigated numerous Roman ruins.

When designing the Teatro Olimpico, the architect created a unique perspective for the structure. The oval amphitheatre (which seated 1,000 spectators) has a gradual slope.
Downstage, there was an arch of triumph decorated with sculptures. The buildings of the imaginary square and streets are visible through three gates.

The construction of the balcony, the loggia and the front stage was carried out based on Palladio's sketches but under Scamozzi's direction. Therefore, he was the one to design the famous stage sets as well. (These are the only Renaissance structures in the world which – despite the turmoil of the centuries – have remained intact to this day.)

The Teatro Olimpico was inaugurated in 1585 with a stylistically appropriate drama: Sophocles’ Oedipus the King. Four-hundred years after the first performance, this magnificent theatre was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage cultural sites.

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