Padua has been called the “Capital of 14th century painting” as the pictorial evidence from that century make the city of fundamental importance for artistic development in the west. Since 1222 the city has housed an extremely prestigious university that is among the oldest in the world. Seat of one of the largest and oldest dioceses in Italy, it is known as the City of the Saint meaning Saint Anthony, the Portuguese Franciscanmonk who lived there for several years and he died there in 1231. The saint’s remains are conserved in the Basilica of Saint Anthony, visited by millions of pilgrims every year.
The first urban settlements in the area have been ascertained beginning in the 1000 B.C., in what is now the city centre. Legend holds that the foundation of Padua dates back to 1132 B.C. by Antenore, the Trojan prince who escaped from the destruction of Troy. In 226 B.C. the Padua people allied with Rome and in 49 B.C. it became a Roman city hall. In imperial times the city became much more wealthy by working the wool coming from the Asiago pastures. There were several streets in the city that connected to the other main towns of that era. During the barbarian invasions it was looted many times, first by the Huns in the V century, by the Lombards in the VII century and the Hungarians in the IX century. In the early Middle Ages Padua became a free commune and joined the Veronese League and the Lombard League in the battles against Emperor Federico Barbarossa. In 1318 the city passed under Carraro domain until 1405, when it was conquered by the Republic of Venice. For the next four centuries Padua enjoyed the peace and prosperity granted by being in the orbit of Venice. When the Serenissima fell in 1797, Napoleon Bonaparte granted the city to Austria. Padua became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1866 after the third war of independence.
To visit: the Basilica of Saint Anthony, one of the largest churches in the world and visited by more than six million pilgrims every year, and one of the most important and visited Christian sanctuaries. It is a papal basilica and is directly administered by the Holy See. In the Middle Ages the area where the basilica stands was on the outskirts, where the small church of Santa Maria Mater Doministood run by the Friar Minors. Saint Anthony stayed there and a monastery was founded at the side of the church by the Franciscan monks, perhaps Saint Anthony himself, in 1229. When Anthony died his body was buried in the church in compliance with his wishes. Very soon after miraculous events began happening on his tomb and the first pilgrims began arriving. The various components of the town asked that Anthony be beatified and named a Saint. The canonization procedure was very rapid and in 1232 Pope Gregory IX named him a saint. A year after his death the decision was taken to build a new church in place of the original Church of Saint Mary, too small to contain the growing number of pilgrims. The construction of the basilica began with the old church, which was incorporated into it as the Chapel of the Black Madonna. The basilica was completed in 1310 and the treasures are conserved in the Chapel of relics, comprising beautiful reliquaries containing the Chin of Saint Anthony and the Saint’s uncorrupted tongue. A glass casket conserves the remains of the investigations into his body in January 1981 (a small part of his tunic, the wood caskets containing his bones, the drapes that were wrapped round the caskets and an inscription from 1263 that testifies the first translation of the Saint’s body). The Basilica Cathedral of Saint Maria Assunta is the city cathedral. The current building dates back to the XVI century, and Michelangelo Buonarroti also worked on its construction. The Scrovegni Chapel in the historic centre and contains Giotto’s famous cycle of frescoes from the XIV century. Palazzo della Ragione, the ancient seat of the town court, was built beginning from 1218, and another storey was added in 1306. The top floor is occupied by the largest hanging Hall in the world. Palazzo del Bo, seat of the University since 1493, is part of Padua Town Hall, and was founded by teachers and students from Bologna to then be publicly recognized in 1222.
This group of buildings originally belonged to the Papafava family, and later became the property of a butcher who received it as a gift from the town magistrate in 1405 as thanks for having supplied the town with meat while it was under siege. The butcher opened an inn there, the “Albergo del Bove”, which became the university in 1539 but the name “Palazzo del Bo” still remains, also because the university decided to conserve the bull’s skull as part of its stemma. Prato della Valle dates back to the end of the XVIII century and is the largest square in the city and one of the largest in Europe, occupying 88,620 square meters. The square is distinctive with its central Memmia Island, surrounded by a canal with two rows of statues along its banks. In Roman times and the early Middle Ages, the military meetings were held there and it was also called the drill ground. Over the centuries the area has been used for markets and various festivals. In 1767 Prato changed hands and from the Monastery of Saint Justine it became the property of the town council.