Eight extraordinary sites and a one-of-a-kind cultural journey: the serial site “Padua’s fourteenth-century fresco cycles” was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a collection of eight monuments in the historic centre of Padua, hosting series of paintings by Giotto, Guariento, Giusto de’ Menabuoi, Altichiero da Zevio, Jacopo Avanzi and Jacopo da Verona. Impressive places that tell the “painting” history of 14th century Padua.
The Scrovegni Chapel
The fresco cycle of the Scrovegni Chapel is considered the masterpiece of fourteenth-century Italian and European painting and represents Giotto's best-preserved work. Painted between 1303 and 1305, the frescoed walls accompany visitors along a journey to discover the life of the Virgin Mary and Christ with 39 painted scenes; the plinth of the lower part of the nave depicts 14 figures of Vices and Virtues, while the counter-façade is dominated by the majestic Last Judgement. A revolutionary work of bourgeois, private and secular patronage, the Scrovegni Chapel is the model par excellence of innovation in spatial research and the rendering of states of mind.
The Church of the Hermits is known by this name because the annexed convent was once a destination for pilgrims passing through, in the fourteenth century it was the most frescoed sacred building in the city of Padua. Its grandiose one-nave interior houses the frescoes of the Paduan Guariento di Arpo, preserved in the Chapel of Saint Anthony Abbot and in the Great Chapel, and of the Florentine Giusto de’ Menabuoi, preserved in the Cortellieri Chapel and the Spisser (or Sanguinacci) Chapel.
Palazzo della Ragione
With its four large internal walls featuring about 2500 square meters of completely frescoed surface, the great hall of the Palazzo della Ragione represents the widest and most articulated fresco cycle of the UNESCO candidate series. In the Middle Ages, the Palace was the seat of the courts of the city of Padua and at the beginning of the fourteenth century the Municipality commissioned Giotto to decorate the walls with frescoes. The fresco cycle of the Florentine master represented astrological subjects related to the theme of divine and earthly justice, an almanac of zodiac signs, planets and constellations, which was unfortunately destroyed by the terrible fire of 1420. Nicola Miretto and Stefano da Ferrara from Padua repainted the walls.
The Carrarese Palace was the residence of the Carraresi family, the rulers of Padua. In the fourteenth century, this imposing architectural complex was an authentic "island" in the heart of the city, enclosed by a long walled walkway. Guariento was called to decorate the private chapel of the princes from Carrara. Between 1355 and 1350, he painted it with a cycle of frescoes depicting stories of the Old Testament. These valuable works can be admired today in the Loggia Carrarese, home to the Galileiana Academy of Arts and Science.
Baptistery of the Cathedral
The Baptistery represents an important example of work commissioned by a female client: Fina de Buzzacarini, wife of Francesco I da Carrara “il Vecchio”, commissioned the frescoes to the Florentine Giusto de Menabuoi, who created his greatest masterpiece here by decorating every single space with scenes focusing on the Salvation History. Particularly exciting is the large dome that represents Heaven, with Christ Pantocrator in the centre surrounded by winged angels arranged in concentric circles, Our Lady accompanied by a double array of angels and a triple array of saints, thus symbolically acting as a mediator between Christ and humanity.
A destination for pilgrimage and a place of worship famous all over the world, the Basilica of Saint Anthony certainly does not need any further introduction. Perhaps few know that it holds the first pictorial testimonies of Giotto's presence in Padua. The decoration of the convent reveals how the Florentine master had already laid the foundations on the perspective and the rendering of the spaces, which he would fully express shortly after in the Scrovegni Chapel. The Basilica features the main protagonists in the history of the fourteenth-century Padua fresco: Giotto, Giusto de’ Menabuoi, Altichiero da Zevio, Jacopo Avanzi and Jacopo da Verona.
St George's Oratory
The interior of the Oratory is completely frescoed by Altichiero da Zevio together with Jacopo da Verona. The decoration of the building, commissioned by Marquis Raimondo Lupi da Soragna as a family mausoleum, focuses on the Life of Christ and the patron saints of the Lupi family (St George, St Catherine and St Lucia). The quality of the paintings, prospective solutions, adherence to real life make this cycle such an innovative masterpiece that it anticipates fifteenth-century space research.
Oratory of St Michael
The Oratory of St Michael was built on the foundations of a sacred building of Lombard origin. Preserved within are frescoes by Jacopo da Verona, a painter who focuses his attention to naturalistic and portrait details and whose language, though steeped in sanctimony, also refers to episodes from everyday life. The cycle represents scenes taken from the life of Virgin Mary and St Michael, in which the members of Signoria Carrarese and the de Bovi family, the clients, also take part.