Elegant Padova -- known in English as Padua -- is home to an ancient university, a Basilica that is an important centre for pilgrims and a chapel containing one of the world’s greatest art treasures. Use this website to help you plan a visit to this fascinating northern Italian city and find your way to the other beautiful towns and villages in the Veneto that are perhaps less well known to tourists.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Francesco Zabarella

Cardinal from Padua helped end the western schism

Cardinal Francesco Zabarella, an expert on canon law whose writings on the subject were to remain the standard authority for centuries, was born on this day in 1360 in Padua.

Zabarella studied jurisprudence in Bologna and in Florence, graduating in 1385. He taught canon law in Florence until 1390 and in Padua until 1410. He took minor orders and in 1398 was made an archipriest of the Cathedral of Padua.

Zabarella also carried out diplomatic missions on behalf of Padua. In 1404 he was one of two ambassadors sent to visit King Charles VI of France to ask for his assistance against Venice, which was preparing to annex Padua. But when Padua became part of the Venetian Republic in 1406, Zabarella became a loyal supporter of Venice. In 1409 he took part in the Council of Pisa as councillor of the Venetian legate.

The antipope John XXIII appointed him Bishop of Florence and cardinal deacon of Santi Cosma and Damiano in Rome in 1411. There were two antipopes at the time as a result of the western schism, which had begun in 1378 when the French cardinals, claiming that the election of Pope Urban VI was invalid, had elected antipope Clement VII as a rival to the Roman pope. This had eventually led to two competing lines of antipopes, the Avignon line and the Pisan line, which had elected antipope Alexander V, John XXIII’s predecessor.

Although Zabarella never received major orders he was an active promoter of ecclesiastical reform. When the Council of Rome failed to end the schism, Zabarella was sent as one of John XXIII’s legates to Emperor Sigismund at Como to reach an understanding over the time and place for holding a new council.
Cardinal Zabarella's tomb in the Duomo

He helped to bring about the opening of the Council of Constance in 1414 in Germany.
In the interest of church unity he persuaded John XXIII to resign in 1415 but also opposed the Avignon antipope, Benedict XIII.

Eventually the Roman pope, Gregory XII, resigned and the Council of Constance formally deposed the Avignon line and the Pisan line.

Suffering poor health, Zabarella went to take the waters at a spa near Constance to try to recover. His last days were spent in pressing for the Council of Constance to elect a new pope as soon as possible. He died in Constance in September 1417 and was later buried in Padua Cathedral. 

By November, Pope Martin V, who had been born in the papal states near Rome, had been elected by the Council of Constance, effectively ending the western schism.

Zabarella’s most important works were: De schismate sui temporis, which dealt with ways and means of ending the schism, written between 1403 and 1408; Lectura super Clementinis, written in 1402; Commentaria in quinque libros Decretalium, written between 1396 and 1404.
Padua's Duomo and Battistero

Francesco Zabarella was laid to rest in the Basilica Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, referred to in Padua as the Duomo. The present Duomo is the third structure to have been built on the site. The first was erected in 313 and destroyed by an earthquake in the 12th century. The church was then rebuilt in Romanesque style and visitors to the Baptistery next door can see how the Duomo would have looked in the 14th century, Zabarella’s era, as it appears in the frescoes executed at that time by Giusto dè Menaboui.

The present building dates back to the 16th century and was finally consecrated in 1754, with its façade left unfinished.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Paolo De Poli

 Painter devoted his life to ancient art of enamelling

One of Italy’s most admired 20th century artists, Paolo De Poli, who became fascinated with the technique of enamelling, was born on this day in 1905 in Padua.

At first De Poli experimented with enamelling small, decorative objects but after he mastered his craft he moved on to creating large panels for the interiors of ships, hotels and public buildings.
Paolo De Poli

De Poli trained in drawing and embossing on metal at the art school Pietro Selvatico of Padua and then studied oil painting in Verona. He embarked on a career as a portrait and landscape painter.

In 1926 he participated in the XVth Biennale di Venezia with the oil painting, Still Life.

While travelling in the 1930s, he visited art museums and archaeological sites and became interested in the traditional art of working with vitreous enamel.From 1933 onwards, he devoted himself to creating enamel works on metal, experimenting with refined objects of many shapes in brilliant colours. He continued to improve his technique, reaching the highest level of skill.

In the 1940s, he collaborated with Milanese architect Gio Ponti in the production of furniture and decorative panels. This led to him producing animal statuettes in sculptural forms and he also produced beautiful vases, bowls, trays, plates, cups, plaques and door handles in enamel on copper.

He also accepted commissions for panels to decorate the homes of collectors in Italy and abroad.

Gio Ponti wrote about him: ‘If we can speak of an Italian art of enamel, it is thanks to De Poli, to the road he opened up and followed faithfully, to the example of his orthodox technique, to his sureness of touch, to the esteem and admiration he has won. And we should be grateful to him for this also.’
The main building of Padua University has works by De Poli

De Poli also dedicated himself to executing altarpieces and cycles of panels on the theme of the Stations of the Cross. These are preserved in churches in Padua, Abano Terme, Treviso and Bergamo.

His creations have been displayed at many international exhibitions and art fairs as expressions of Italian style. Many of his works in enamel on copper are now in the permanent collections of the important museums of decorative art and design.

De Poli was actively involved in the defence of the Italian cultural heritage and the promotion of arts and crafts during his career.

From 1960 to 1973 he served as a member of the board of directors of the Milan Triennale.
In 1970 De Poli was awarded the title of Cavaliere del Lavoro. He died in Padua in 1996, aged 91.

His personal archive of designs, prototypes, photographs and correspondence has been entrusted to the Archivio Progetti of IUAV University of Venice.

Visitors to Padua can see examples of his work in buildings in the city. Two of De Poli’s panels, depicting Podestà Rusca and Vescovo Giordano, are in Palazzo Bò, the main building of Padua University in Via 8 Febbraio. To find Palazzo Bò, leave Piazza Cavour, passing Caffe Pedrocchi on your right and walk down Via 8 Febbraio. The university building is on the left hand side of the street at its corner with Via San Francesco. De Poli’s statuette, Toro (Bull), completed in 1966, is in Padua’s Musei Civici, a complex of museums and historic sites centred round the former convent of the Eremitani in Piazza Eremitani.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Petrarch – Renaissance poet

Death of writer who inspired the modern Italian language

The poet Petrarch was born Francesco  Petrarca on July 19, 1374
The poet Petrarch was born Francesco
Petrarca on July 19, 1374
Renaissance scholar and poet Francesco Petrarca died on this day in 1374 at Arquà near Padua.

Petrarca, known in English as Petrarch, is considered to be an important figure in the history of Italian literature.

He is often credited with initiating the 14th century Renaissance, after his rediscovery of Cicero’s letters, and also with being the founder of Humanism.

In the 16th century, the Italian poet, Pietro Bembo, created the model for the modern Italian language based on Petrarch’s works.

Petrarch was born in Arezzo in Tuscany in 1304. His father was a friend of the poet Dante Alighieri, but he insisted Petrarch studied law.

The poet was far more interested in writing and reading Latin literature and considered the time he studied law as wasted years.

Petrarch’s first major work, Africa, about the Roman general, Scipio Africanus, turned him into a celebrity. In 1341 he became the first poet laureate since ancient times and his sonnets were admired and imitated throughout Europe.

The town of Arquà Petrarca, near Padua, where the poet Petrarch was born, and which took his name
The town of Arquà Petrarca, near Padua, where the poet
Petrarch was born, and which took his name
Petrarch travelled widely throughout Italy and Europe during his life and once climbed Mount Ventoux near Vaucluse in France just for pleasure, writing about the experience afterwards.

Towards the end of his life he moved with his daughter, Francesca, and her family, to live in the small town of Arquà in the Euganean Hills to the south west of Padua. He died there on 19 July 1374, the day before his 70th birthday.

Arquà, in the province of Padua, where Petrarch spent his last few years, is considered to be one of the most beautiful, small towns in Italy and it has won awards for tourism and hospitality. In 1870 the town became known as Arquà Petrarca and the house where the poet lived is now a museum dedicated to him.


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Teatro Verdi Padua

Famous singers have graced stage of elegant theatre 

Padua has a beautiful 18th century theatre named after the composer Giuseppe Verdi, which is in Via del Livello in the centre of the city, close to Piazza dei Signori.

Teatro Verdi presents operas, musicals, plays, ballets and concerts organised by the Teatro Stabile del Veneto.
Teatro Verdi is in Via del Livello in the centre of Padua

The theatre was originally named Teatro Nuovo after it was built in 1751. The architect, Giovanni Gloria, had been commissioned to design the theatre by a group of important citizens of Padua, who wanted something similar to the Teatro degli Obizzi, which had been built in the city in 1652 and was used to put on operas during the first half of the 18th century.

Among the celebrated singers who appeared at Teatro Nuovo were castrati singers Gaetano Guadagni and Gaspare Pacchierotti, soprano Giuditta Pasta and contralto Giuseppina Grassini

In 1846 the theatre was restored inside by Giuseppe Japelli and in 1884, when the theatre was dedicated to Giuseppe Verdi, the interior was changed again by architect Achille Sfondrini with Giacomo Casa decorating the ceiling.

During World War I the ceiling was badly damaged by bombing and had to be redone by Giuliano Tommasi.

In 1920, when Teatro Verdi was able to reopen, the King of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele III, attended the opening ceremony.

During World War II the number of productions had to be limited and after the war the theatre became the property of the local authority.

For more information about future productions, visit www.teatrostabileveneto.it/the-teatro-verdi/

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Porta Altinate Padua

13th century gate is a popular way to enter the city 

One of Padua’s only two remaining medieval gates, Porta Altinate, provides a way into the centre of the city for thousands of people each day.
The 13th century Porta Altinate

Padua’s tram stops on Riviera dei Ponti Romani and when passengers get off they can quickly walk through Porta Altinate to reach the two main squares, Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza della Frutta.

Porta Altinate was one of the gates in the walls built around Padua in the 13th century to protect the city from hostile attacks.

The walls were constructed on the orders of the comune of Padua and there are still a few remnants of them left in parts of the city.

In 1256, Porta Altinate was stormed and destroyed by troops fighting to overthrow the notorious tyrant Ezzelino III da Romano. It was the day the hated ruler finally lost his power over the city. 

The gate was rebuilt in 1286 and the event is recorded in an inscription by the historian, Conte Carlo Leoni, on a memorial stone under the archway.

Porta Altinate’s lookout tower has since been reduced in height and the gate now stands between modern buildings.

Looking at it from Piazza Garibaldi, the gate would once have been reflected in the waters of a canal behind it, but this was filled in to create the section of road called Riviera dei Ponti Romani, which was named in honour of the Roman bridges which now lie below the surface of the road.
Monument to Alvise Pisani

Inside the archway is a monument in baroque style to Alvise Pisani, who was captain of Padua from 1686 to 1687 and then became Doge of the Republic of Venice. The monument was the work of artists studying in Padua at the time.

But the intricately carved stonework is probably missed by many of the pedestrians and cyclists who are in a hurry to pass through the gate each day on their way into Padua.