Walking Padua…Part 2

From Palazzo Bo to the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua

From the University of Padua’s main palazzo, I decided my next stop would be the Tomb of Antenor. Antenor himself was a character referred to in the story of the Fall of Troy. He is mentioned as a traitor to the Trojans in Homer’s Iliad and is mentioned in Vergil’s Aenead as having escaped Troy, settled in Northern Italy and founded the city of Padua. Probably amongst the oldest monuments in Padua is a tomb to be found in the Piazza of Antenor, being the supposed tomb of this ancient Trojan. Apparently in 1274 there was an ancient sarcophagus unearthed nearby and a local poet (Lovato de’Lovati) announced that it was the coffin of Antenor himself, perhaps because he could tell the sarcophagus was getting on to be over two and a half thousand years old! The present monument was commissioned by Lovato and has stood in this piazza ever since. Lovato decided his own tomb needed to be also placed in this piazza and can be seen to the right in the image below. Unfortunately, modern study of the contents of Antenor’s tomb found a skull, a female femur and some animal bones. Carbon testing suggested that the human bones belonged to somebody who died around the 4th century CE.

My next destination was the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua and my route took me down Via Roma. Both sides of this street consisted of arcades over the side-walks (below left). As I walked along, I noticed the doorway to a church that was simply built into the long brick wall of the building I was passing. I decided to have a quick look and as usual there were some lovely works of art inside. This church was built in the 14th century.

I proceeded along Via Roma until it ended at a roundabout and a bridge, Ponte delle Torricelle, where a branch of the local river speared into the centre of the old town. The image to the left shows the section of the Riviera Paleocopa going under the roundabout; it re-emerges as a canal further towards the Church of the ‘Saint’ as the locals call it.

I turned left at the roundabout and followed the signs to the cathedral which took me past a large and busy Questura (Police Station). The river’s waters reappeared further along and I followed this canal along Riviera Ruzante (left below).

On my way along this street/canal, I came across the back of a church that looked too interesting to be ignored. I strolled into the back entrance and noted the sculpture (left bottom corner in photo above) of two stags ready to do battle. The church and the associated monastery are affiliated with Santa Giustina of Padova and was built in 1076. (Another church almost a millennium old!) Saint Daniel was a converted Jew who was martyred in 168CE.

Returning to Riviera Ruzante I continued on my way to the ‘Saint’s’ church with the canal as my companion. I arrived at a street where the sign pointed me away from the canal towards the basilica and I could see its many towers rising above the neighbourhood in the distance.

St Anthony of Padua (1195-1231) was a Portuguese Roman Catholic priest and a friar of the Franciscan order. He was ordained an Augustinian monk but was attracted by the life-style of some Franciscan Friars who came to live in a small hermitage near where he was working in Spain. He was given permission to join the new Franciscan order. After impressing some friars by his preaching, he was sent to Romagna where he met Francis of Assisi. Francis was not a big fan of theological studies but he found in Anthony a kindred spirit. Francis appointed Anthony as a teacher for those seeking ordination into the Franciscans. He died near Padua and was buried in the small church of Santa Maria Mater Domini.

The Pontifical Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua is a place of pilgrimage for people from all over the world and is one of the national shrines recognised by the Holy See. Such was the fame of St Anthony that the construction of the basilica began within 12 months of his death and was finished in 1310CE. Anthony had asked to be buried in a small church so the Paduans rearranged their plan to for Anthony’s grave to be in the basilica and so the small church where he was buried was incorporated into the basilica, now called Cappella della Madonna Mora (Chapel of the Dark Madonna).

There are two images of the Basilica above. The first one is taken from the front of the church as you approach the main door. The second photo above is taken from the left hand side and it illustrates the large number of towers that have been incorporated into this church. The photo before the above image is of the ‘Cappella_delle_reliquie’, a baroque treasury chapel (1691) where relics of St Anthony are to be found.

As can be seen from the image to the left below, almost adjacent to the ‘Saint’s’ church is the botanical garden of Padua founded in 1545 by the Venetian Republic; it is the world’s oldest academic botanical garden that is still in its original location. The garden is operated by the University of Padua and owned by the Italian government and is roughly 22,000 square meters in size, and is known for its special collections and historical design. The domes and towers of the basilica can be seen in the background of the photo to the right below showing a section of the garden

The Botanical Garden of Padua is the original of all botanical gardens throughout the world, and represents the birth of science, of scientific exchanges, and understanding of the relationship between nature and culture. It has made a profound contribution to the development of many modern scientific disciplines, notably botany, medicine, ecology and pharmacy.” (University of Padua website)

After checking out the Botanic Gardens of Padua, there were only two major sites left to visit in my day in Padua. The first of these was the Prato della Vale and the second was the Abbey of Santa Giustina. The map above shows the elipse that is Italy’s largest piazza and it always features very high on all website lists of the key sights to see in Padua. It is about 90,000 square metres in size. The outer ring of Prato della Vale is  made up of a canal that surrounds the oval island called Isola Memmia, named after the creator of this parkland, Andrea Memmo. The area once belonged to the monks of San Giustina but it became public property and the reclamation of the site began in 1775.

When I arrived at the top of this huge piazza, I was distracted for a while as there were a number of Fire Engines there that appeared to be working on suppressing a fire in one of the buildings that surrounded this area.

The real estate around the Prato della Vale must be much sort after in Padua as the buildings that surround the parkland were both impressive and beautiful. My favourite was the Palazzo Amulea (see right) which stands on the west side of the area. It is a neo-Gothic palace originally built by Cardinal Amulio but it burnt down in 1822 and the building that replaced it was completed by the local council.

Accompanying the canal that runs around Memmo’s Island are two  rings of statues of famous people that are part of the history and cultural life of Padua. There are 78 statues in total. I made my way through the centre of the island towards the bridge on the opposite side of Memmo’s Island that takes the visitor towards a large gate in the wall around the Prato della Vale. The statue here was of Pope Alexander VI. Apparently Andrea Memmo had to do a lot of promotion in order to get locals to fund these statues.

.There are many churches in Padua and at least three of them are huge. They are the city’s Duomo, the Basilica of Anthony of Padua and the Basilica of St Giustina of Padua. I am not sure which was the biggest but the Basilica down the road from Prato della Vale dedicated to a saint I had never heard of must have been nearly as big as St Anthony’s. Apparently there was a church here in 520 CE devoted to St Giustina who was a local Christian girl who had made a vow of perpetual virginity. For some obscure reason, the local Roman authorities couldn’t abide by this decision and she was slain by Maximian, the joint Roman Emperor with Diocletian.

In the 10th century, the church here was a destination for pilgrims and a new basilica was begun in 1052. Apparently there were a lot of early saints buried here and were exhumed in this process and reburied in the new Church. Life isn’t easy for some churches and Saint Giustina’s church was one of them; it was sacked by the troops of the ill-named Holy Roman Emperor from across the alps in 1110. In 1177, it was devastated by an earthquake.

After the rebuild, the remains of St Giustina were discovered as well as some remains that the locals decided belonged to St Luke the Evangelist. The discovery of St Luke’s bones seems to be more wishful thinking than a reasoned decision based on clear evidence from the grave. Sadly, there are eight bodies and nine heads of St Luke, the Evangelis that are scattered around the Middle East. To the left is the chapel from St Giustina’s that has around 1 in 8 chance of holding the relics of St Luke.

The photo on the left below shows one of the griffins that stands outside the main doors of St Giustina’s. The photo on the right is from inside the basilica looking towards the main altar.

After viewing St Giustina’s, it was time to head back to the railway station after my long walk through the beautiful city of Padua. As indicated earlier in Blog 1 on Padua, I had mistakenly bypassed the Roman arena that was in a park not far from the station. My intention was to have a look at it on the way back to catching my train back to Venice. At some point around Piazza Insurrezione I took a wrong turn and found myself wandering through a gate in the city wall (Porta Molino) and then a bridge across the river that followed the walls of the city. Luckily a passerbye was able to direct me down a street that led me directly to the station. The Roman ruins would have to wait for another day.


(Yes, there was an opportunity to return to Padua to check out the Roman Ruins as well as the Archaeology Museum!)

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