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.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Andrea Palladio

The most admired architect of all time was born in Padua

Palladio became one of the most influential architects in history
Palladio became one of the most
influential architects in history
The world’s most famous and influential architect, Andrea Palladio, was baptised on 30 November in 1508 at the Oratorio di San Michele in Padua.

It is not known whether he was born on the 30th, or on the previous day.

Palladio’s style was to become so popular that architects all over the world designed villas and public buildings copying his interpretation of classical Roman architecture.

For example, the White House in Washington, the home of the President of the United States, built between 1792 and 1800, has many echoes of Palladian style.

Palladio was born Andrea di Pietro della Gondola, either just before, or on the day, of his baptism. He was the son of a miller in Padua.

He found work as a stone cutter in the workshop of a sculptor initially. but moved to Vicenza when he was 16, where he joined a guild of stonemasons and bricklayers. 

It was while working as a stonemason for the poet and scholar Gian Giorgio Trissino that his career began to gather pace. Trissino not only gave him the name Palladio, after the Greek goddess of wisdom, Pallas Athene, but encouraged and helped him to study classical architecture in Rome.

Palladio became fascinated with the work of Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, architect and engineer of the 1st century BC. It was while in Rome that he came across the Pantheon, with its huge hemispheric dome inspired by Vitruvius, which was to influence many of his designs.

The Villa Cornaro in Piombino Dese
The Villa Cornaro in Piombino Dese 
Trissino also introduced Palladio to a number of wealthy and influential families, including the Barbaro brothers, through whom he ultimately became chief architect of the Republic of Venice, having already occupied the equivalent position in Vicenza.

Palladio received his first commissions in the 1530s and thereafter was in constant demand, his style inspiring other architects outside Italy, at first in Europe and later around the world.  One factor in the spread of his fame was his publication in 1570 of his treatise, I Quattro Libri dell'Archittetura (The Four Books of Architecture), which set out rules others could follow.

Examples of Palladio's work can be found all over the region where he lived and in Venice, where he was commissioned to build, among other architectural masterpieces, the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, the focal point of the view across the lagoon from St Mark's Square through the Piazzetta.

He built a substantial number of villas for wealthy clients across the Veneto region, some of them lining the Brenta Canal that links the lagoon of Venice with Padua. Others such as the Villa Capra, otherwise known as La Rotonda, famous for its symmetrically square design with four six-columned porticoes, can be found in open countryside near Vicenza.

La Rotonda, near Vicenza, is one of  Palladio's most famous buildings
La Rotonda, near Vicenza, is one of 
Palladio's most famous buildings
Vicenza itself features many of Palladio's designs, including the fabulous Teatro Olimpico, in which perspective was used to create the optical illusion of city streets receding from the stage.  He was working on the theatre at the time of his death, after which the project was finished by his son, Silla, one of his five children, and Palladio's assistant, Vincenzo Scamozzi.

Palladio designed two beautiful villas in the province of Padua, Villa Cornaro in Piombino Dese and Villa Pisani in Montagnana.

One of his finest works is considered to be Villa Foscari, otherwise known as La Malcontenta, located next to the Brenta canal at Mira, which is between Padua and Venice.

Palladio died in 1580, aged 71. The cause of his death is not clear but some accounts say he collapsed while inspecting the construction of the Tempietto Barbaro, a church in Maser, near Treviso.

He was initially buried in a family vault in the church of Santa Corona in Vicenza, the city in which he spent most of his life, but was later re-interred at the civic cemetery, where a chapel was built in his honour.


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