Last Updated on December 4, 2023 by Laura Teso
Eight sites in Padua contain very high examples of fourteenth-century painting, influenced by Giotto’s innovations. All eight were painted between 1302 and 1397 and represent a continuum of unity of style and meaning. Let’s see together the 8 sites of Padua UNESCO World Heritage Site.
PS Padua is one of the few cities in the world having 2 UNESCO sites. The second is the Botanical Garden.
PPPS: At the end of the article I have put the information for the Padova Urbs Picta Card.
Padua UNESCO Heritage: the 8 sites in detail
1 Cappella degli Scrovegni / Scrovegni Chapel
The Scrovegni Chapel is a real masterpiece, located inside the ruins of the Roman Arena in Padua. It is accessed from the adjacent Civic Museum of the Eremitani. Externally it is a small church that can easily go unnoticed, part of the sumptuous palace that the rich banker Enrico Scrovegni owned in that area. Inside, however, it holds a treasure: Giotto’s frescoes, completed in 1306. Why did Scrovegni commission this work? To redeem the soul of his father Reginaldo, usurer, even mentioned by Dante in his Inferno.
The whole surface follows a precise decorative and symbolic project on the theme of salvation:
- Along the sides: stories of Joachim and Anna (parents of the Virgin), stories of Jesus and Mary.
- Still along the sides but at the bottom, we find monochrome allegories of Vices and Virtues.
- On the short side: the Last Judgment, with the souls of the damned devoured by Lucifer and tortured by devils. Below, under the cross, Enrico Scrovegni offers a model of the chapel to the Virgin.
- The whole is crowned by a celestial vault in a wonderful ultramarine blue, decorated with 8-pointed stars (this decorative motif was chosen for the seats of the city tram).
If compared to the Stories of St. Francis in the Basilica of Assisi, here Giotto shows greater maturity and experience in the brushstroke. Feelings and passions are vividly represented (so much so that in the panel with the Massacre of the Innocents you can see the first tears in the history of painting). The architectures are more realistic and anticipate the discovery of perspective that will take place in the following century. Another curiosity: in the panel of the Adoration of the Magi, Giotto painted the Halley’s comet, which he had observed live in 1301, as a model for the star of Bethlehem.
Info for the visit to Cappella degli Scrovegni
Openin hours 9 – 19
Closed: Chirstmas, December 26, January 1st
Reservation required: www.cappelladegliscrovegni.it
Admission fee €16 (including Civic Museum). Reduced € 11. Detailed fees are in the official website.
2 Church of Sants Filippo and Giacomo (aka Eremitani)
It is located next to the Civic Museum, therefore 2 minutes from the Scrovegni Chapel. The pictorial cycles (located in the private chapels of local noble families) demonstate how the painters, Guariento and Giusto de’ Menabuoi, had well assimilated Giotto’s lesson, especially as regards the rendering of the architecture and the volume of the figures.
The cycle is composed as follows:
- Stories of Saints Philip, James and Augustine
- Monochrome baseboard with Planets and seven ages of man
- Round paintings representing the Doctors of the Church
Attention! The church of the Eremitani preserves also a masterpiece of the Venetian Renaissance: the Ovetari Chapel, frescoed by Mantegna with stories of San Giacomo and San Cristoforo. Unfortunately this work, like other parts of the church, were victims of a bombing during the Second World War (March 1944). The fresco exploded into thousands of fragments which were collected with great patience a few days after the event. Only two scenes and a few fragments were saved. The restoration was completed in 2006, and included the recomposition of the frescoes through the use of digital images obtained thanks to computer research.
Information for the visit to the Eremitani church
Free entrance. Mon- Fri 7.30 -12.30, 15.30 – 19.30. Saturday and Sunday 9-12.30/ 16-19
(Warning, the visit is not possible during Masses)
3 Palazzo della Ragione
Palazzo della Ragione is the ancient medieval law court of Padua, built starting from 1218. For me it is the heart of the city. It is in fact located between the two main squares, piazza della Frutta and piazza delle Erbe, where the open-air city market takes place every morning (except Sundays). The building itself houses a covered market on the ground floor (which turned 800 in 2019), with stalls of fish, bread, meat, cheese, a few shops, as well as some cafès.
The Hall on the upper floor, the so-called Salone, housed the Court instead. Well, the Salone presents an amazing cycle of frescoes, inspired by the philosopher, doctor and astrologer Pietro d’Abano, one of the most erudite men of his time, accused of necromancy by the Inquisition. Of the 8 Padua UNESCO World Heritage sites, it is the only one that had not a religious commission.
Think that the first cycle of frescoes was by Giotto. But unfortunately it was lost due to a fire. It was subsequently repainted following the same iconographic scheme. The panels in the lower part represent figures of saints and allegories, punctuated by the representations of the various law courts. In the upper band we have a more compact iconographic theme, focused on astrological subjects, divided into 12 areas as follows:
- Mont (with connected agricultural activity)
- Zodiac sign
- Related planet
- An apostle
- One or more constellations
Info for the visit to Palazzo della Ragione
Openin hours: from Tuesday to Sunday 9-19. Closed: Monday (except on bank holidays), Christmas, January 1 st, May 1st
Full € 8.00. Reduced € 6,00. In the case of exhibitions, the rates may vary, admission allowed up to half an hour before closing.
4 Cappella della Reggia Carrarese /Carrarese Palace Chapel
The Da Carraras were an aristocratic Paduan family who obtained the lordship of the city between 1318 and 1405. What was once their city palace now houses the Galileian Academy. Inside there is the Chapel, decorated by Guariento with scenes from the Old Testament. For the first time, the painter represents each episode not isolated in a single panel, but linked to the adjacent scenes.
Info for the visit to Reggia Carrarese
Free access guided by Salvalarte di Legambiente staff.
Closing: month of August. Hours: Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 – 12. Visits by appointment € 5.00
Tel. +39 049 8763820 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Extraordinary Sunday openings promoted by Salvalarte di Legambiente which can be consulted on the website
5 Battistero del Duomo – Duomo Baptistery
This is one of my favorites of the entire Padua UNESCO World Heritage Sites! The interior of the Baptistery is completely covered with frescoes, executed by Giusto de’ Menabuoi on the theme of salvation. It starts from the top of the Dome, with the scene of Paradise, dominated by a large Christ Pantocrator, surrounded by angels and saints. On the walls we find instead episodes from the life of St. John the Baptist, Mary and Jesus. Behind the altar are represented the Crucifixion, the descent of the Holy Spirit and the Apocalypse. Then we find stories of Genesis, Prophets, Evangelists and scenes of Creation.
Info for the visit to Battistero del Duomo
Openin hours: all year round 10-18. Closed: Christmas, January 1st, Easter
Fee € 7 . Tickets can be purchased in the adjacent Diocesan Museum.
6. Saint Anthony Basilica
Here we can admire the first pictorial works of Giotto in Padua, with a decoration behind the sculpture of the Virgin and Child, where the tomb of Sant’Antonio was once located. We find other frescoes, albeit fragmentary, in the Chapter Room, with Stories of St. Francis. In the Basilica there are other frescoes (or traces of them) attributed to Giotto or to the workshop school, as for example in the Cappella delle Benedizioni.
Also from the fourteenth century are the frescoes by Altichiero da Zevio, Jacopo Avanzi, Jacopo da Verona and Giusto de’ Menabuoi. Among the best in my opinion:
- The frescoes in the Chapel of the Blessed Luca Belludi by Giusto de’ Menabuoi, which I particularly love because they include a representation of Padua at the time.
- The Chapel of San Giacomo with the Crucifixion by Altichiero and Avanzi.
Info for the visit to Basilica del Santo
Free admission. 6.20 – 18.45 (up to 19.45 from end of March to end of October)
7 Saint George Oratory
In the Oratory of San Giorgio (located next to the Basilica – on the right, facing the entrance) it is possible to admire a pictorial cycle by Altichiero da Zevio on the theme: Life of Christ and lives of the patron saints of the Lupi family, who commissioned the work: San Giorgio, Santa Caterina and Santa Lucia. Very cleverly, at the entrance they give you a paper that describes each scene clearly.
The ticket also includes the Antoniano Museum (sacred vestments, statues, paintings) and the Scoletta. The latter is absolutely worth a visit for all the paintings, but above all for the three by Titian. You will also be guided by the paper for this room, but be careful. They say to start from number 1 panel. We couldn’t find it and felt very dazed. Well, painting number 1 is not at the height of the others, but lower down, as soon as you get through the entrance door on your right.
Info for the visit to Oratorio di San Giorgio
From Tuesday to Sunday 9 – 13, 14 – 18 (no on Christmas, January 1st, and Mondays).
Fee 7€ (including also Scoletta del Santo + Museum Antoniano). You have to purchase the ticket at the Info Office (entrance on the right side of the Basilica: pass the arch, turn right and there it is).
8 Saint Michael’s Oratory
The Oratorio di San Michele is frescoed by Jacopo da Verona with stories from the Life of the Virgin. Annunciation, Nativity of Jesus, Ascension, Pentecost, Funeral of the Virgin.
It represents the last Padua UNESCO example of fourteenth-century painting and summarizes all the innovations brought by Giotto: the perspective research, the rendering of human feelings, the style of narration that becomes more current.
Info for the visit to Oratorio di San Michele
Open to the public by the La Torlonga cultural association (+39 049 660836)
Hours: from October 1 to May 31 – Tuesday to Friday 10-13, Saturday, Sunday and holidays 15-18.
From June 1 to September 30 – Tuesday to Friday 10 – 13, Saturday, Sunday and public holidays 16 – 19
Closed: non-holiday Mondays, Christmas, Dec 26, January 1st, May 1st
Full € 4.00 Reduced € 3.50 Free up to 5 years and disabled
Padova Urbs Picta Card
Good news: there’s a Padova Urbs Picta Card, including admission to all Padua UNESCO sites + use of public transport. There are 2 types of card: one valid for 48 hours for the price of €28 or the second for 72 hours for the price of €35. There is also a card for residents of Padua and its province: the price is €25 and it lasts for 6 months.
You can purchase the card:
- By contacting the number +390492010020
- At the ticket office of the Civic Museum of the Eremitani.
- At the 3 IAT points: railway station hall, vicolo Pedrocchi and piazza del Santo.
- Online on the websites turismopadova.it and cappelladegliscrovegni.it