Sunday, October 07, 2007
Padova isn't much to look at from the outside, but the interiors are grand. In a way, it reminds me of Bologna. Both being busy college towns with lots of upscale shops.
We arrived by train from Monselice, and first walked to the markets, which were a little disappointing. Mostly clothing stalls. It's entirely possible that we walked around one portion and missed part of the market. Next was the Duomo, very plain and old looking on the outside, yet incredibly modern on the inside. Lots of modern sculpture at the altar, including a pretty hip looking Jesus on the cross...he looked like a college student. There was also a strange window inside a crypt lighting a dressed body, or statue of a body.
After the Duomo we walked to Basilica di Sant' Antonio. This is where St. Anthony spent his last years and the site of his tomb - not to mention his tongue, his vocal chords and lower teeth. All preserved and on display. This is a major pilgrimage site. St. Anthony being the patron saint of travelers, donkeys, stewardesses and pig farmers. And lost things. His tomb was surrounded by pictures and letters praying for help.
Next we walked back towards the train station to the Scrovegni Chapel. I had called the day before to make reservations for 2pm. When we arrived to pick up our tickets, they had openings right then, so we were able to join the 12:15 group. This turned out great, as it was a small group. First, we watched a 15 minute video on the chapel, then they let our group of about 10 into the chapel. Everything is climate controlled to preserve the frescoes, and they really limit the people in the chapel. The poor chapel has had a rough last 100 years. It was built in the early 1300s - Enrico Scrovegni was trying to buy forgiveness for his father's sin of usury. He hired Giotto to paint the frescoes. Giotto was ahead of his time, since the paintings show emotion and perspective and vivid color. The frescoes illustrate the life of Mary and Jesus. There is a bit of damage to the inside walls caused from the demolition of the attached palace in the late 1800s and the stripping of the plaster from the facade. What I wasn't expecting to see, and what was just as fascinating as the frescoes, were the original and very worn pews, and the original private door into the chapel used by the Scrovegni family.
After the chapel, we went and had lunch (pizza) at La Cova, then back to the museum to look at Roman artifacts (some cool mosaics), bronze stuff (cute little horsemen), an Egyptian room, Etruscan urns and a lot of paintings Veneto painters. A lot. Mostly of people - madonna and child, saints, Salome, and church people (as in Popes and cardinals).
Next we stopped for gelato (of course) before heading to the university. The University of Padova was founded in 1222, the second oldest in Italy. It has over 60,000 students (!) and is famous for its schools of law and medicine. Galileo taught here for 18 years. We took a short (but well worth it) tour and saw the famous anatomy theatre, which was much smaller than we all imagined. When the theatre was in use, there would be 300-350 students packed (standing) into that small room with no windows and a body being dissected. Ewwww. The river ran directly below the room, so if the church came investigating they could quickly dump the body in the river and replace it with an animal body. On the way out of the university we saw the statue of Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, the first female college graduate (Philosophy 1678).
On the way home from the train station we stopped in Monselice for a fairly forgettable dinner. Lance had a shrimp antipasti that was drowning in 1000 Island dressing, which seemed an odd thing.
Note: Not very many pictures from Padova, since most places did not allow pictures.