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.