The school organized an outing to Padova on Sunday which I very much enjoyed.
Padova is known for such things as being the setting of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, for having a University more than 800 years old at which Galileo Galilei was once a lecturer, and for its many porticoed streets and piazze (the plural of piazza).
In addition to the above, there are a couple of extremely significant religious sites in Padova (surprise!), the first being The Scrovegni Chapel (Cappella degli Scrovegni), followed by the Basilica di Sant’Antonio da Padova.
We began our visit at The Scrovegni Chapel. The chapel is acclaimed for having one of the most important fresco cycles in the world, following the life of Mary and then Christ. The chapel was commissioned by the Enrico degli Scrovegni who presumably was seeking a way to purge himself, and his family, of guilt and greed. The frescoes were completed in 1305 by Giotti and have been a source of inspiration to many other masters, such as Michelangelo, and Dante references Giotti in his Inferno.
Entrance to the chapel is highly regulated as there are serious concerns regarding the preservation of the frescoes. Tickets must be purchased in advance, which the school arranged for us through our guide. Entrance times are extremely punctual and we were first led into a sort of anti-chamber which is airlocked and climate-controlled in which we watched a brief video before we were permitted to continue into to the chapel. No bags are permitted (we had to leave them at a coat check), and certainly no pictures or videos.
The chapel itself is stunning! There are three levels of frescoes that wrap around the chapel, beginning with the life of Mary. The colors, depth, and air of divinity in the frescoes are marvelous.
When our allocated 20 minutes in the chapel expired we were promptly ushered out for the next group to enter! It didn’t delight my senses quite as much as the Piccolomini Library in Siena (which I loved), but it was absolutely worth the visit to Padova!
After lunch (which included my first bolognese ragù since arriving in Italy!), we visited the Basilica di Sant’Antonio da Padova. The church was begun in 1230 and is fascinating as it is constructed in a Byzantine style and has seven cupolas. The inside of the Basilica reminded me a bit of The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem as there is a bit of a labyrinth feel to the place and there are so many visitors and priests in various vestiges although the church is of Franciscan denomination. No pictures permitted!
The Basilica houses the tomb of Saint Anthony along with many relics. The chapel in which his tomb is located is simply massive and highly adorned. It is somewhat of a pilgrimage sight and there is a place alongside the tomb for worshipers to leave letters/petitions to Saint Anthony and many visitors have left pictures of people on a wall adjacent to the tomb.
Saint Anthony is the patron saint of lost things/items so it is quite sad and moving to see pictures of the faces of people that have disappeared or are missing for whatever reason. As people walk around the rear of the tomb, many press both of their hands on it and make a short prayer (it is about head high).
A few years ago, prior to a trip to Chile with my friends Ann and Leslie, I misplaced by passport and was in a real panic (Ann will recall me calling her!). I also called my mother, as she is a very good Catholic, and she prayed and made an offering to Saint Anthony and sure enough, the next day I found my passport (which I had hidden in a very ridiculous place). I had to pay my mother back for the offering which was quite hefty as she figured she needed to pad the request as I was in a rush and needed to jump to the top of the line (ouch!).
Outside the Basilica is Donatello’s statue of the Erasmo da Narni which was inspired by Marcus Aurelius. There are also several statues by Donatello within the Basilica.
Attached are some photos of the Basilica (external). I will write more about the non-religious side of Padova tomorrow.
Addendum: January 16, 2012 – I found a note from my mother regarding the donation to St. Anthony referenced above! Now included in the slideshow.