Padua: the City of Frescoes
It was Giotto who, in the first years of the Fourteenth century, infused enormous importance into fresco decoration thus paving the way to an extraordinary age of narrative and monumental painting. His lesson inspired generations of artists in the following centuries. Thanks to them, today Padua cherishes an incomparable heritage of "narrating walls", or long frescoed cycles that embellish sacred and profane buildings, public and private palaces.
Here below please find a selection of the most meaningful frescoes, generally chosen in consideration of their wholeness. Some of these can be visited upon appointment only, while others are always open to the public. Because of space constraints, many works are not mentioned here. Therefore do not feel surprised if, while visiting Padua, you will find more and more frescoes that are not mentioned in this simple article. They will further corroborate the fact that Padua is the city of frescoes!
Chiesa di S. Michele at Pozzoveggiani
Frescoes dating from the 10th to the 13th century
A few kilometres from the city centre of Padua, along old via Annia, there rises a small church rich in evidence that date back to the late ancient age: it is the Church of St. Michael, at Pozzoveggiani. Inside the church there are precious frescoes dating back to the 10th-11th century and depicting six Apostles with the typical stylistic traits of the Carolingian-Othonian period; the apse holds Christ Pantocrator with the symbols of the Evangelists followed by a long series of Saints and Apostles (12th-13th century).
It can be visited upon demand at the phone no. 338 1385742 / 349 1635669
Cappella degli Scrovegni
Frescoes by Giotto
At the beginning of the Fourteenth century, Enrico degli Scrovegni had this small chapel - now known as the Scrovegni Chapel - built next to the family palace, and he entrusted Giotto with the job to decorate its interiors with stories from the lives of the Holy Mary and Jesus, and the grandiose Last Judgement. The frescoes were most likely made from 1303 to 1305, and today they are listed amongst the most outstanding examples of figurative art of all times.
Booking is compulsory at www.cappelladegliscrovegni.it
The Carrarese Chapel (now the Library of Accademia Galileiana)
Frescoes by Guariento
Precious evidence that has survived the destruction of the Reggia dei Carraresi (the royal palace of the Da Carrara family), Loggia Carrarese also stands as a beautiful example of 14th-century architecture. In the old private Chapel of the princes, now the Assembly Hall of Accademia Galileiana, visitors can admire stories from the Old Testament told by Guariento di Arpo, the painter of the Carraresi court, with his elegant language between 1349 and 1354.
The seat of the Academy can be visited from Thursday to Saturdays from 10.00 a.m. to 12.30 p.m.
To book a visit in different hours, please call 049.8763820 or send a request by e-mail to email@example.com
The Great Chapel, Chiesa degli Eremitani
Frescoes by Guariento
The stories of the Saints Philip and Augustine painted by Guariento di Arpo between 1361 and 1365 are on the left wall of the presbytery. The right wall was fully destroyed during the bombings on March 11, 1944. Here Guariento applies Giotto's lesson on space and, rather, goes beyond it with his wide enlarged architectures that are studied in perspective and are closely related to the figures. In the Cortellieri Chapel some frescoes depict Virtues and the Liberal Arts: these are the only precious traces of the first work made in Padua by Giusto de' Menabuoi (1370). Traces of 14th-century frescoes are to be found in the Sanguinacci Chapel as well. The Ovetari Chapel holds frescoes by Andrea Mantegna (see below).
The Chapel of St. James and St. Felix, Basilica of St. Anthony
Frescoes by Altichiero da Zevio and Jacopo Avanzo, 1377-78
History and legend merge in this outstanding chapel, the building of which started in 1372 following the wish of Bonifacio dei Lupi di Soragna, a knight and diplomat of great culture, who entrusted Altichiero da Zevio with the fresco decoration of the chapel. Events from the life of St. James, the patron of knights, are depicted in the typical places and spaces of the Venetian territory. Particularly remarkable is the great Crucifixion. In the scene entitled "The dream of king Ramiro" there appear the poet Francesco Petrarca, Lombardo della Seta and the Lord of Padua, Francesco il Vecchio da Carrara.
Oratorio di S. Giorgio
Frescoes by Altichiero da Zevio and Jacopo Avanzo, 1379-84
The Oratory of St. George, the burial chapel of the brave man at arms Raimondino Lupi di Soragna, overlooks the courtyard of the Basilica of St. Anthony. The interior of the chapel was frescoed by Altichiero da Zevio and Jacopo Avanzo between 1379 and 1384 with stories from the lives of Jesus, St. George the patron of knights, and of St. Lucy and St. Catherine, the "female soldiers" of Jesus Christ. Raimondino is portrayed in military clothes while parading before the Holy Virgin.
The Chapel of St. Philip and St. James or of the Blessed Luca Belludi, Basilica of St. Anthony
Frescoes by Giusto de Menabuoi
Built from 1380 to 1382 upon the will of the brothers Manfredino and Naimerio Conti, relatives of the Carraresi family, the Chapel is also dedicated to the Blessed Luca Belludi, St. Anthony's preferred brother who was buried here. The walls tell stories of St. Philip and St. James taken from the work Leggenda Aurea (the Golden Legend) by Jacopo da Varazze, and superbly painted by Giusto de' Menabuoi, a skilled painter working at the court of the Da Carrara family. Do not miss the wonderful sight of fourteenth-century Padua left of the apse.
The Baptistery of the Cathedral
Frescoes by Giusto de' Menabuoi
The old Baptistery was chosen by Fina Buzzaccarini, the wife of Francesco il Vecchio da Carrara, as the burial place for herself and her husband. Therefore in 1378 she ordered the grandiose fresco decoration of the Baptistery, which she entrusted to the court painter Giusto de' Menabuoi. For his frescoes, Giusto required a higher dome where he painted the wonderful Paradise that can still be admired nowadays. The walls tell stories from the lives of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ, and from the Creation. The Apocalypse is depicted in the apse.
Oratorio di S. Michele
Frescoes by Jacopo da Verona, 1397
This very old oratory is mentioned in documents as early as in the 6th century, under the Lombard rule; it was definitively named after St. Michael in 1170. The frescoes on the walls were made by Jacopo da Verona in 1397 who, in a homelike and middle-class language, tells stories from the lives of the Holy Mary and Jesus Christ following the lessons given by Giotto, Altichiero and Giusto de' Menabuoi, and thus bringing the "golden century" of Padua to a close.
Palazzo della Ragione
Stefano da Ferrara and Nicolò Miretto, 1420 circa
The imposing Palazzo della Ragione was built in 1218 by the Municipality of Padua, and it has been the pivot of the civil and trading life of the town since. In its wonderful "Salone" (a huge hall), it still preserves an extraordinary cycle of astrological frescoes inspired by the Astrolabium Planum by Pietro d'Abano, a great scientist who lived between the 13th and the 14th centuries. The surface of its walls, 1,200 square meters, is decorated with as many as 333 frescoes that depict fascinating theories on the influence exerted by the stars and the planets on the vices and virtues of mankind.
Basilica di S. Giustina, Chapel of St. Luke
Frescoes by Giovanni Storlato 1436-38 (Stories from the life of St. Luke)
The wide Basilica of St. Justine, one of the largest of Christendom, holds precious evidence of Christianity behind its serious, unfinished façade. This basilica holds the mortal remains of many martyrs and saints, including those of proto-martyr Justine who inspired the large altar-piece by Veronese on the main altar; those of St. Prosdocimo, whom tradition describes as the first bishop of Padua; of St. Luke the Evangelist, St. Matthias and many more. Its monastery is particularly charming, and it is still inhabited by the Benedictine monks. The Chapel of St. Luke, or Chapter Chapel, is decorated with frescoes by Giovanni Storlato telling stories from the life of St. Luke. In the so-called painted Cloister, once fully decorated with frescoes by Girolamo del Santo, portions of the 16th-century decorations are still visible. Other frescoes dating the 18th century by an unknown author decorate the Passage of the Martyrs.
Chiesa degli Eremitani, the Ovetari Chapel
Andrea Mantegna (1453 circa)
At the age of 17 only, Andrea Mantegna signed an agreement with Imperatrice Ovetari to decorate this chapel in the Eremitani Church. His talent exploded at once in the Stories from the lives of St. James and St. Christopher, where his art reveals a vivid light that started the extraordinary renovation process of the figurative language that would make of Padua the main centre wherefrom the language of the Renaissance spread throughout northern Italy.
Former Monastery of S. Giovanni di Verdura
1487 and beyond
The current military hospital of Padua could tell a far-reaching and complex story. Founded in the Thirteenth century as a Benedictine monastery, it was later managed by the members of the Lateran Congregation until this was suppressed by the Serenissima Republic of Venice in 1783. Later it was used as a foundling hospital, then as the headquarters of the Jesuits and, finally, as a military hospital. At the end of the 15th century the former library, now a chapel, was decorated with a nice cycle of frescoes with Famous Men, on the longer walls, and with Virtues and Liberal Arts in the lunettes and in the decoration of the storm door.
It can be visited only upon demand at the phone no. 049 8738111
Palazzo Vescovile, Chapel of St. Mary of the Angels
Jacopo da Montagnana (1495)
Part of the rich museum path inside Palazzo Vescovile, or the Bishop's Palace, the Chapel of St. Mary of the Angels is a true jewel of the sacred art in Padua. Built at the end of the 1400's, it was frescoed in 1495 by Prospero da Piazzola and Jacopo Parisati da Montagnana; the latter is also the author of the Announcement triptych on the Altar.
Palazzo Vescovile, Salone dei Vescovi
Frescoes by Bartolomeo Montagna
The imposing Bishops' Hall inside Palazzo Vescovile was frescoed in 1505 by Bartolomeo Montagna with the portraits of the first 100 bishops of Padua; later, the portraits of their successors until the beginning of the 1900's were added. The hall also preserves a portrait of Francesco Petrarca from his canonical house in Dietroduomo.
Scoletta del Carmine
Frescoes by Giulio and Domenico Campagnola, Girolamo del Santo, Stefano dell'Arzere
Built in the 14th century next to Chiesa del Carmine to house the brotherhood bearing the same name, it is decorated with a superb cycle of frescoes dating the 16th century and representing stories from the lives of Jesus Christ and the Holy Mary. The frescoes were made by Girolamo Tessari called Dal Santo, Giulio Campagnola, Domenica Campagnola, Stefano dall'Arzere and their partners.
It can be visited upon demand at the phone no. 049 8760422
Scuola del Santo
Frescoes by Titian, Bartolomeo Montagna, Francesco Vecellio, Domenico Campagnola, Girolamo del Santo, Giovanni Antonio Corona, Filippo da Verona
Mentioned in documents as early as 1427, this Scoletta was enlarged in 1504 and later decorated with a cycle of frescoes narrating stories and miracles of St. Anthony. Among the authors of these frescoes there stands out Titian, who painted: The Miracle of the Newborn Child, The Miracle of the Jealous Husband, The Miracle of the Wrathful Son, all dated 1511.
Sala dei Giganti
This huge hall, called The Giants' Hall and now part of the Department of Arts, or Liviano, at the University of Padua, was originally part of a palace built for the Da Carrara family. Roundabout 1350 the hall was frescoed by Guariento, Altichiero and Avanzo with historical characters inspired by Petrarca's De Viris Illustribus. The frescoes that can be admired today were painted in 1540 by Domenico Campagnola, Stefano dall'Arzere and Gualtiero Padovano, and they reiterate the previously painted subject.
Sala dei Nodari, Palazzo Moroni
Frescoes by Domenico Campagnola
Once the Chapel of the Notary Public Roll, who used to meet here as a Chapter, in 1551 this hall was frescoed by Domenico Campagnola by appointment of the podestà Stefano Tiepolo with religious themes: the Glory of St. John the Baptist, the saints John the Evangelist, Paul and Rocco, the protectors of the city, Bishops and stories from the life of the Baptist. Over the centuries, the paintings have been modified and renovated several times.
It can be visited by groups only; authorization should be asked for at the no. 049 8205200
Oratorio di S. Rocco
Frescoes by Gualtiero Padovano and Stefano dell'Arzere (1542)
The Oratory of St. Rocco, where the brotherhood having the same name used to meet, was decorated between the early 1500's and 1542 with a cycle of paintings dedicated to the stories from the life of St. Rocco, the patron saint against the plague. The frescoes were made by two artists from Padua, Gualtiero Padovano and Stefano dall'Arzere, both followers of the style of Domenico Campagnola.
Chiesa di S. Francesco
Frescoes by Girolamo del Santo
The architectural complex of St. Francis was started in 1414 following the will of the married couple Baldo and Sibilla Bonafari, with the building of the hospital that was the most important in town until 1798. The Church of St. Francis was started some years later and it was enlarged in the 1500's. The second chapel along the right aisle still preserves a beautiful cycle of frescoes with episodes from the life of the Holy Virgin, the masterpiece of Girolamo dal Santo (1523-26).
Oratorio del Redentore
Frescoes by Girolamo del Santo
Annexed to the Church of the Holy Cross is the Oratory of the Redeemer, which was decorated in 1537 with the cycle of the Way of the Cross or of the Mysteries of the Passion, made by Girolamo dal Santo. The protector Saints were instead painted by Domenico Campagnola.
It can be visited upon demand at the phone no. 049 8801438
Oratorio di S. Bovo
The upper hall of the Oratory of St. Bovo, formerly the Chapter-room of the Bovai Brotherhood, features a wooden ceiling with lacunars and, on the walls, a series of panels frescoed by various authors of the 1500's, including Domenico Campagnola, Stefano dall'Arezere and others whose identity is uncertain; these panels depict stories from the life and Passion of Jesus Christ (a similar cycle to the one in the nearby Oratory of the Redeeemer in the Church of the Holy Cross).
It can be visited upon demand at the phone no. 049 8758525
Frescoes by Lambert Sustris and other unknown authors
The Odeo Cornaro was part of a building complex belonging to nobleman Alvise Cornaro in the 1500's. Alvise Cornaro was a protagonist of the cultural life of Padua at that time; much interested in hydraulic engineering and an independent farmer, a theoretician of architecture and a supporter of the figurative arts, patron of a lot of artists, Alvise Cornaro wanted that a loggia for theatre plays, and the Odeo for music performances and scholarly conversations, be built next to his palace in Padua. The Odeo, in particular, features wonderful grotesquerie decorations in the umbrella-shaped vault of the central hall, while the adjacent rooms are decorated with airy landscapes attributed to Lambert Sustris, a Dutch artist who worked in Rome, Venice, and Padua in the third decade of the 1500's.
Scuola della Carità
Frescoes by Dario Varotari
The Scuola della Carità was the seat of one of the most important lay brotherhoods in Padua, the task of which was to manage the bequests to the support and help of the poor and of the invalid, and for other charitable actions. Inside it preserves a precious cycle of frescoes with episodes from the life of the Virgin Mary made by Dario Varotari in 1579. The southern wall features a large fresco with the married couple of Baldo Bonafari and Sibilla de Cetto, great benefactors and the clients of the first, large hospital of Padua.
The Scuola is open to the public in the following hours:
Thursdays and Saturdays: 10.00 - 12.00 a.m. and 4.30 - 6.30 p.m.
Fridays: 4.30 - 6.30 p.m.
Loggia del Consiglio, or Loggia della Gran Guardia
Frescoes by Antonio Torri (1667)
The elegant Loggia del Consiglio, or Loggia della Gran Guardia, rises on the south side of Piazza dei Signori; it was built between 1501 and 1533 to house the highest court of the judiciary of Padua. The upper hall was frescoed by Antonio Torri in 1667, with historical and legendary episodes about Padua.
Chiesa di S. Gaetano
Frescoes by Guy Luis Vernansal (1730)
Among the many works that decorate the Church of St. Gaetano, designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi in 1582, undoubtedly the most remarkable from an artistic viewpoint is the fresco on the vault, the masterpiece of Guy Louis Vernansal J., finished in 1742. In the ideal Paradise painted by the painter from Paris, the chosen souls are painted inside 16 sectors arranged as rays converging into the central medallion, which holds the Trinity, the Holy Mary, John the Baptist, Judas and Simon.
Caffè Pedrocchi, Piano Nobile
Between 1840 and 1842 Antonio Pedrocchi, the client of a symbol of Padua - the historical and glorious Caffè Pedrocchi - had the piano nobile of this building decorated with impudent and ironic eclecticism, to relive human civilization in a thoroughly personal interpretation of the various historical ages: the Etruscan, the Greek, the Roman, the Renaissance, the Napoleonic, the Egyptian, and the Moorish ages. This extraordinary gallery of styles was created by artists from Belluno (Giovanni De Min, Pietro Paletti, Ippolito Caffi), Padua (Vincenzo Gazzotto, Antonio Gradenigo), and by Giuseppe Petrelli from Rome.
Frescoes by Francesco Hayez (19th cent.), Giuseppe Borsato, Giovanni Carlo Bevilacqua
In the Nineteenth century architect Daniele Danieletti was entrusted by earl Giacomo Zabarella, the latest descendant of this family, with the creation of an access to the piano nobile of the old family palace without changing its external look. In 1818-19 the work by Danieletti was crowned with a refined wall decoration by three renowned artists: Francesco Hayez, Giuseppe Borsato and Giovanni Carlo Bevilacqua, who all worked in Venice already, interpreted the rediscovery of ancient themes with a neo-classic taste.
University of Padua, Palazzo Bo
In the prestigious university of Padua, many rooms were frescoed between the 19th and the 20th century. Among these rooms are Aula Magna (the Great Hall), with the ceiling frescoed by Giulio Carlini with "Wisdom and the branches of learning" (1854-56); Sala dei Quaranta (the Hall of the Forty Men), decorated with the portraits of 40 great foreigners who attended the University of Padua, made by Giacomo dal Forno (1942); the great frescoes along the grand staircase that takes to Rettorato (the Chancellor's offices) and the Rettorato itself were made by Giò Ponti (1941). The passageway of the Rettorato was frescoed by Piero Fornasetti (1942-43) and Fulvio Pendini (1956). The hall dedicated to the Department of Medicine was frescoed by Achille Funi (1942). Sala degli Studenti (the Students' Hall) holds works by Antonio Morato (1940). The so-called Basilica is decorated with a cycle of frescoes by Pino Casarini about the Political History of this University since 1848 (1940-42).
University of Padua, Liviano
The tall walls of the Liviano, the seat of the Department of Arts made by Giò Ponti in 1939, were fully decorated by Massimo Campigli on a surface of 250 square meters (1940). This work illustrates the continuity of the Roman civilization into modern age, and it celebrates the symbols of life and poetry, of study and work. The left wall holds the portraits of Carlo Anti, the Chancellor of the University at that time; of Giò Ponti, Massimo Campigli and Giuditta Campigli.
Basilica of St. Anthony
Achille Casanova (1903-1943)
Various authors (1905-1983)
Towards the end of the 1800's following a series of fires and disasters that happened over the centuries, the Basilica had lost most of its wall decoration made in the 15th century. Therefore a public call for tender was organized, and the winner was Achille Casanova. The apse, the semi-dome, the main dome and the side walls were decorated by this artist from the region of Emilia, with a series of frescoes all linked by the theme of the Glorification of St. Anthony. Also the chapels along the ambulatory were frescoed in the 20th century: frescoes by Ermolao Paletti in the Chapel of St. Joseph (1912); frescoes by Adolfo de Carolis and Ubaldo Oppi in the Ch. of St. Francis; the Ch. of St. Leopold was frescoed by Gerardo Fugel (1905); works by Taddeo Popiel in the Ch. of St. Stanislaw (1899); frescoes by Lodovico Seitz in the Ch. of St. Stephen (1908); frescoes by Martino Feuerstein in the Ch. of St. Boniface (1907); frescoes by Biagio Biagetti in the Ch. of St. Rose (1913-14); and works by Pietro Annigoni in the Ch. of St. Catherine (1983).