Padova: The Art of Dragon Warfare

Giovanni was once a young padawan in Padua, providing the ideal guide for our day trip to the city last week.

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Our time was spent at a variety of unique, interesting locations.  We visited the Basilica di Sant’Antonio. Its construction began in approximately 1232 , one year following St. Anthony’s death, and was completed in 1301.

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We also also paid a visit to the Cappella degli Scrovegni (The Scrovegni Chapel) with frescoes by Giotto.  Enrico Scrovegni, a rich nobleman, purchased the land around the Roman arena in order to build a house.  The chapel was built next to it, and Giotto was commissioned to paint the floor to ceiling frescoes (sometime between 1303 and 1305).  This work was intricate and beautiful, however in order to enter the chapel (for 15 short minutes), we were required to watch a video in a special room as they filtered the air, in order to preserve the fading masterpiece.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe University of Padua was founded in 1222 as a School of Law.  As we walked through the inner courtyard (which was under construction), the walls were covered in the Coat of Arms for families of students who have attended the university through the centuries.  An element which I found quite interesting was the stone statue of a woman in a case below a flight of stairs.

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Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia was born in Venice (1646) to Giovanni Battista Cornaro-Piscopia, a Procurator of St. Mark’s Basilica.  She was highly educated, beginning her studies of Greek and Latin around the age of 7, later adding Hebrew, French, Spanish and Arabic to her language expertise.  Her father sent her to the University of Padua, and she graduated with her Doctorate of Philosophy in 1678, making her the first woman to graduate from a university.

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Loggia e Odeo Cornaro was an especially interesting location.  The Loggia and Odeon are the remains of a much larger area of architecture built near the palace of Alvise Cornaro.  A hydraulics expert, he surrounded himself with poets, writers, intellectuals, musicians and a host of others, and the buildings are in the Paduan Renaissance style.  The Loggia was built in 1524 by the architect Giovanni Maria Falconetto from Verona.  A fixed stage of elaborate decoration, the building was used for theatrical performances, and audience members would place seating in front of the Loggia in order to watch the plays of Ruzzante (a friend and guest of Cornaro).

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The Odeon was completed by 1544 and was intended as a place for musical performance.  The center area of the ground floor is an octagonal (hence its name) domed hall.  The acoustics of this space create an interesting effect.  Sound reverberates off of the rounded corners, and from the center, sound bounces back to you as if in an echo chamber.  This provides for a unique performance space.  The stuccos of the Odeon are by Tiziano Minio, and the grotesques (figures) and painting are attributed to Gulatiero Padovano.

At this point, you are probably wondering where the dragon comes in.  That would be our visit to the Biblioteca Capitolare della Curia Vescovile di Padova.  Silvia Fumian, post-doc scholar at the Università degli Studi di Padova provided us with a number of manuscripts and works to view and study.

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We viewed a lovely selection of materials, including illuminations and a work on inventions and arts of warfare.

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We were provided with an interesting and stimulating variety of activities and locations to visit on this trip.  Next up, Bologna and Venice.

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