In the former chapel of the Palazzo the Iguvine Tables are on display, an epigraphic document of fundamental importance to the history of Ancient Italy. Gubbio was one of the major religious centres of the Ancient Umbrians whose territory, before the Roman expansion, covered a large area comprising parts of Umbria, The Marches and Romagna. Because of its central position, the Umbrian territory was a hub for communications, trade and the exchange of technology, ideology and cultural models.
Fundamental for an understanding of the society, language and material culture of this ancient people, the Iguvine Tables, (from the ancient name for Gubbio, Iguvium,), constitute the longest and most important ritual text we have from Ancient Italy. No liturgical text of such detail exists either in Latin or Greek. The Tables were discovered in the middle of the 15th century near the Roman Theatre in Gubbio and consist of seven bronze tables in Ancient Umbrian transcribed in two of the ‘international’ alphabets of the time, the Etruscan one and then the Latin one.
They were inscribed at different times between the 3rd and 1st centuries B.C. but, undoubtedly, the texts are much older. They describe rites associated with various purification ceremonies and sacrifices to be performed if the omens were inauspicious, or at particular feasts or moments in the agrarian calendar. In some cases the words of the prayers to be recited are also inscribed. The officiators of the rites were members of the Atiedii sect or brotherhood who, in early times, must also have functioned as political leaders of the community involved in the ceremonies.
The life of the Umbrians was permeated and underpinned by the infinite manifestations of the ‘divine’ which took the form of numerous deities, who were not anthropomorphic but divine embodiments of human actions and the most significant aspects of social and ritualistic life. Among the most important were Giove Padre ( designated Fisio, that is the consecrator and guarantor of the social pact), Marte ( god of Nature and War) and Uofiono (god of the lineage of the race).
The former Chapel of the Palazzo is decorated with 14th century frescoes. The fresco on the wall representing the Enthroned Madonna and Child with Four Saints, known as the Maestà dei Consoli, has recently been attributed to Mello da Gubbio. One theory is that it bears witness to the termination of the Consular government and inauguration of the Signoria of the Gabrielli family. Giovanni di Cantuccio Gabrielli, who commissioned the work and who was overlord of Gubbio between 1350-1354, is depicted kneeling in front of the throne. The feast days of the saints grouped around him, (Donato, Ciriaco, Largo and Smaragdo), coincided with the time at which he seized power. The shield painted on the side of the throne probably featured the Gabrielli coat-of-arms which was later expunged since the Statutes of Gubbio forbade the placing of any coat-of-arms on public buildings other than those of the Commune, the Church, the Pope and Robert d’Anjou.