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In ancient times the region was occupied by Gaul in the north and by Picene in the south of the Esino river; the Roman conquest starting in the third century B.C.. It was initially divided into two regions, the fifth (Piceno) and the sixth (Umbria), and was unified in the year 292 A.D.; later the region had different administrative subdivisions

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While Lombards settle down in the south of Ancona, the Ravenna exarchate controls the northern area (Pentapoli marittima), which later the Frankish donate to the Pope (752). During the tenth century the name Marca appears, indicating an imperial sphere of influence: the marca of Camerino first, then that of Fermo, extended by the addition of the territory of Ancona. Despite the power of the lay and ecclesiastic feudalism, many towns set up free cities


Beginning from the thirteenth century, various aristocratic families, like Montefeltro (in Urbino, Cagli, Fossombrone), Da Varano (in Camerino) and Malatesta (from Pesaro to Osimo), achieve and gradually consolidate their power. But the papacy, on the basis of old law, tries to impose its authority over the whole territory, now fighting against, now coming to an agreement with the communes, the feudal lords and the squires; even in the fourteenth century, thanks to the vigorous action of the cardinal Albornoz, directly or indirectly controls many cities and castles; then, after the ephemeral dominion of Francesco Sforza (1433-44) and Valentino (early 1500), completes the subjection of the region, occupying the commune of Ancona (1532), then the dukedom of Urbino (1631), where the family Della Rovere, taken the place of the Montefeltro, ended. The Papal States rule the Marches, with the short exception of the Napoleonic period, till the annexation to the Italian Kingdom, in 1860.


Plentiful evidence of those and other historical events remain in many towns and villages of the region.


The region occupies a prominent place within the context of the italian art, even without a particularly marked artistic physiognomy.

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Remarkable Roman remains are scattered in the Marches' territory (Ascoli; Fermo; Urbisaglia; Falerone; Helvia Ricina near Macerata); the arch of Augusto in Fano and the arch of Traiano in Ancona got almost intact to us.


The constructional activity during the Romanesque period (eleventh-thirteenth century) was noteworthy: between the more significant churches, where you can often notice a fusion between Lombard and Byzantine elements, you can remember S. Maria di Portonovo near Ancona, S. Maria a Pie' di Chienti, S. Vittore delle Chiuse, S. Claudio al Chienti, S. Maria di Rambona, S. Ciriaco of Ancona, the cathedral and the parish church of S. Leo, the baptistery of Ascoli, besides houses in Ascoli, Ancona and elsewhere.


The Gothic period (thirteenth-fifteenth century), when the Venetian influence was little by little prevailing, was fruitful, too: between the buildings stand out S. Francesco of Ascoli and S. Nicola of Tolentino, which contain a notable cycle of frescoes of the school of Rimini of the thirteenth century, and the works of Giorgio Orsini da Sebenico in Ancona.


The Renaissance marks the height of the art in the Marches. The activity concentrated particularly in Urbino, round the splendid Duke's Palace, and in the basilica of Loreto, attracting famous architects (Luciano Laurana; Baccio Pontelli; Francesco di Giorgio Martini; the Sangallo etc.), sculptors (A. Sansovino) and painters (Piero della Francesca, Melozzo, Signorelli, the Vivarini, Giusto di Gand); more remarkable buildings stood in Pesaro (Duke's Palace, the Rock, villa dell'Imperiale), in Jesi (palazzo della Signoria), in S. Leo (rocca) and in several localities. In the beginning of the fifteenth century a local painting school developed (Gentile da Fabriano, the Salimbeni, etc.), which then fused with the Umbrian one, while many works of artists from Veneto poured in (C. Crivelli; Giovanni Bellini; Lotto; Tiziano).


The region gave two outstanding artists to the Italian art, at that time: Bramante and Raffaello. Finally we have to remember the splendid products of the minor guilds, especially the majolica, which reached the greatest splendour in Castel Durante (the present Urbania), Urbino and Pesaro. From the baroque period on, the region lived under the influence of Rome.

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