CORTONA, a town and episcopal see of Italy, in the province of Arezzo, 18 m. S. by E. from the town of Arezzo by rail. The ancient and modern names are identical. Pop. (1901) of town, 3579; commune, 29,296. The highest point of Cortona, a medieval castle (Fortezza), is situated 2130 ft. above sea-level on a hill commanding a splendid view, and is approached by a winding road. It is surrounded by its ancient Etruscan walls, which for the greater part of the circuit are fairly well preserved. They are constructed of parallelepipedal blocks of limestone, finely jointed (though the jointing has often been spoilt by weathering), and arranged in regular courses which vary in size in different parts of the enceinte. Near the N.W. angle some of the blocks are 7 to 8 ft. long and 2 ft. high, while on the W. side they are a good deal smaller - sometimes only 1 ft. high (see F. Noack in Römische Mitteilungen, 1897, 184). Within the town are two subterranean vaulted buildings in good masonry, of uncertain nature, some other remains under modern buildings, and a concrete ruin known as the "Bagni di Bacco." The museum of the Accademia Etrusca, a learned body founded by Ridolfino Venuti in 1726, is situated in the Palazzo Pretorio; it contains some Etruscan objects, among which may be specially noted a magnificent bronze lamp with 16 lights, of remarkably fine workmanship, found in 1740, at the foot of the hill, two votive hands and a few other bronzes, and a little gold jewellery. The library has a good MS. of Dante. The cathedral, originally a Tuscan Romanesque building of the 11th-12th centuries, is now a fine Renaissance basilica restored in the 18th century, containing some paintings by Luca Signorelli, a native of the place. Opposite is the baptistery, with three fine pictures by Fra Angelico. S. Margherita, just below the Fortezza, is an ugly modern building occupying the site of a Gothic church of 1294, and containing a fine original rose window and reliefs from the tomb of the saint by Angelo e Francesco di maestro Pietro d'Assisi. Other works by Signorelli are to be seen elsewhere in the town, especially in S. Domenico; Pietro Berettini (Pietro da Cortona, 1596-1669) is hardly represented here at all. Below the town is the massive tomb chamber (originally subterranean, but now lacking the mound of the earth which covered it) known as the Grotta di Pitagora (grotto of Pythagoras). To the E. is the church of S. Maria del Calcinaio, a fine early Renaissance building by Francesco di Giorgio Martini of Siena, with fine stained glass windows.
The foundation of Cortona belongs to the legendary period of Italy. It appears in history as one of the strongholds of the Etruscan power; but in Roman times it is hardly mentioned. Dionysius's statement that it was a colony (i. 26) is probably due to confusion.
See G. Dennis, Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria (London, 1883), ii. 394 seq.; A. Della Cella, Cortona Antica (Cortona, 1900).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)