We awoke this morning to find that it was Saturday (It is REALLY hard to keep track of the days here when there is no schedule and we are exploring a new city every day), and market day in Prato della Valle. We strolled around the market, peeked into a church that looked cooler on the outside, and then wandered around the market for a bit. I wanted to take a picture of Prato della Valle with a bridge, and Austin got the camera out to find that the shutter/lens thing was stuck half way open. He, of course, accused me of breaking his camera, while I accused him of using all dead batteries so that the camera did not even have enough power to close. Turns out, a few glancing blows to the camera did the trick, and we did not have to buy a new camera! Crisis averted!
|Prato della Valle bridge and moat in background… right after the camera decided to live!|
We next went over to the Duomo. While the Duomo was pretty cool, what was really amazing was the baptistery next door. We paid a few euro to get in, but it was worth it to see a whole room covered with frescoes depicting scenes from the creation, to Bible scenes, to the whole life of Christ.
|the dome of the baptistry… after seeing Scrovegni chapel, we realized maybe the artist was trying to copy Giotto with his frescoes in the baptistry… oh well|
The nice guy selling tickets even let us sneak a peek into the actual baptismal font. I learned that they used to baptize by immersion in the Catholic church. When the announcement came out that infant baptism was the thing to do (the creation of original sin), infants starting dying from baptism by immersion, so they started doing baptism by sprinkling instead. So, the original font of this baptistery was definitely deep enough for baptism by immersion, but had a little bowl on top for the current baptismal tradition.
|University of Padova graduates’ coats of arms|
After the baptistery, we visited the University of Padova, the third university in the whole world. Galileo taught there for about 15 years, before being offered a more lucrative position in Florence. It is still a working university, with its campus spread out over the city. We visited the historic site of the university, which now houses only the law school. They offered tours of some of the more historic rooms, including a room where they celebrated each graduate by placing their family’s coat of arms, country of origin, and name on the wall. I guess it was a much bigger deal back then to graduate from university. We also learned that Padova accepted Christian and non-Christian students (Jews, etc) and was the northernmost university then available, so many came from nordic countries, England, etc to study there. The absolute coolest part of the tour was seeing Galileo’s anatomy theater. I’m really sad that we didn’t get to take pictures of it, because it is extremely cool. Padova was one of the first universities that allowed learning by dissection of human bodies. The Catholic church was against this practice due to the belief in the Resurrection, but a student convinced them to allow them to use basically death row convicts as long as they then buried them in a special cemetery afterwards. They constructed a theater which was a squished inverted cone, with the professor and the body down in this chamber at the bottom of all of the seats, and 300 students could see the anatomy professor pointing out things. The body was raised up to the height of the first row of students so that everyone could see. Also, there was a hall as part of the medical school honoring all those who had discovered the uses of different body parts… like Mr. Placent (placenta) and Mr. Eustachus (ear). This was pretty much my favorite part of the whole day, especially when the last stop on the tour was to see a statue of the first woman graduate from a university. She graduated sometimes in the 1600s.
|Galileo’s anatomy theater|
In general, Padova reminded us of Boulder, CO. It has always been the seat of revolutionary thought and resistance movements throughout the years, and welcomes everyone to their city. It was by far the most tourist friendly city we’ve been to thus far, with pretty much everything in English. After the university, we meandered over to a park to eat our market-bought lunch, and to sit down for awhile. We enjoyed the civic museums of Padova, which included ancient art/sculpture from Egyptians, Etruscans, and Romans up through the 1600s.
|Outside of the Scrovegni Chapel|
Next to the civic museums was the main attraction, the Scrovegni Chapel with frescoes completely covering the walls and ceiling by Giotto. They were painted in the 1200s and we got to learn in a multimedia exhibit beforehand how they go about making frescoes. Frescoes are done by mixing paint with new cement. Some colors don’t go on very well with the cement, so they put those on top. Because they were on top and not mixed in, the bright blues tended to fade much more readily than the other colors in the frescoes. It was so beautiful and poignant due to Giotto being one of the first to put emotion into religious art. The most interesting thing about the chapel is that in order to preserve the frescoes, the entire thing is sealed airtight, and all visitors are brought into a special chamber for a few minutes before we are allowed in just in order to equalize the air humidity, temperature, etc between the optimal and what the weather is like outside…
Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed to be taken in the museum or in Scrovegni Chapel, so I will include internet pictures instead.
|Scrovegni chapel inside…|