Liberal Arts Blog — Italy (Part X) Padua — the Scrovegni Chapel, the University, The Botanical Garden
Liberal Arts Blog — Sunday is the Joy of Humor, Food, Travel, Practical Life Tips, and Miscellaneous Day
Today’s Topic: Italy (Part X) Padua (Padova) — the Scrovegni Chapel (Giotto), the University, The Botanical Garden, and Much More
Don’t miss Padua. Giotto’s series of frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel is one of the wonders of the world. Like the Sistine Chapel in Rome and the Collegiata de Maria Asunta in San Gigminiano, it has a drab, nondescript exterior but the interior is magical. The Botanical Garden of Padua is “the most ancient in the world.” A third pilgrimage destination is the medical school of Padua where such historic figures as William Harvey (who discovered the circulation of the blood) and Andreas Vesalius (author of the greatest anatomical textbook of all time, illustrated by Ian van Calcar) studied and taught. The University there was a breakaway in 1222 from the University of Bologna by a group of students wanting more freedom of expression. Galileo taught there from 1592–1610. Copernicus had studied medicine there from 1501 to 1503. Perhaps Padua’s most famous native son is Palladio, the great Renaissance architect. Today, a few more notes on this fascinating town that Shakespeare used as the setting for the “Taming of the Shrew.” Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
THE SCROVEGNI CHAPEL (1305) — Giotto fresco cycle covers the lives of both Mary and Jesus (in vibrant colors) as well as depicting the Seven Virtues and the Seven Vices (in shades of gray, “grisaeille”)
1. Giotto was given the commission by a banker named Enrico Scrovegni (c 1266–1366) who hoped that it would atone for the sin of usury (charging clients interest on their loans). Do you think it worked?
2. His family was so famous for their wealth that Dante had included Enrico’s father in the Divine Comedy — in fact, in the inner ring of the Seventh Circle of Hell.
3. What was it like in “the inner ring of the Seventh Circle”? Well, so glad you asked. It was “a burning hot desert with a continual rain of fire. The usurers are to be found sitting on the sand, swatting away fire like animals swat bugs, and crying. Around their necks are found purses emblazoned with their coats of arms.”
NB: The chapel was originally connected to a palace which was destroyed in the 19th century. In case you have forgotten the seven virtues and vices are: charity-envy, faith-infidelity, hope- despair, temperance-wrath, prudence-foolishness, fortitude-inconstancy, and justice-injustice.
THE UNIVERSITY OF PADUA — Copernicus, Galileo, Harvey, Vesalius — second oldest university in the world, after Bologna (1088) from which it split off in 1222
1. It has the oldest surviving anatomical theater in Europe (above).
2. Given the Galileo connection, it is perhaps no surprise that the university also features a History of Physics museum.
3. The Botanical Garden affiliated with the University dates to 1545 and includes the “Goethe palm” (planted in 1585) which was discussed by the polymath in one of his scientific essays on botany. The Garden’s original focus was medicinal plants. It now includes five habitats: Mediterranean maquis, Alpine garden, fresh water, succulent plants, and orchid greenhouses.
THE PRATO DELLA VALLE — One of the largest elliptical squares in Europe
1. The largest square in Italy, it has a green island in the center, surrounded by a canal.
2. It is bordered by two rings of statues. The outer ring has 88 statues. The inner ring 38.
3. Festivals are held there on both New Year’s Day and the Feast of the Assumption (August 15).
FOOTNOTE — the Palazzo della Ragione (known as “Il Salone” that is the “Big Hall”)
1. The remarkable building had three historical functions: a medieval market (lower floor), town hall (upper floor) and court house.
2. An unusual feature is a large wooden horse in the town hall. It is a replica of Donatello’s bronze statue of “Gattamelata” (“honeyed cat”) the nickname of the General Commander of the Venetian forces, Erasmo di Narni. The Donatello sculpture is the earliest still surviving equestrian statue of the Renaissance and “a prototype for equestrian monuments in the West.” (last link)
3. The great hall is lined with frescoes depicting over three hundred different scenes. Topics include the “signs of the zodiac, trades, and character traits.”
LAST FOUR YEARS OF POSTS ORGANIZED THEMATICALLY:
#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, 11/17/20
Anything miscellaneous to share? Best trip you ever took in your life? Practical life tips? Random facts? Jokes? Or, what is the best cartoon you have seen lately? or in the last 10 years? or the last 50? Or what is your favorite holiday food? Main course? Dessert? Fondest food memories? Favorite foods to eat or prepare?
This is your chance to make someone else’s day. Or to cement in your mind a memory that might otherwise disappear. Or to think more deeply about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.