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Art in Padua, Italy

Probably better known as the city of St. Anthony or as the economic capital of Veneto, Padua is one of the most important art cities in Italy. An ancient legend goes that the Greek hero Antenor was the founder of the town. The historical Padua was actually founded over 3000 years ago, during the Paleoveneti age, in a loop of the river Brenta. In the 4th century b.C. it became the most important centre of the ancient Veneti people. Allied to the Romans against the Gauls and since 49 b.C. a municipium, Patavium was one of the most flourishing towns of the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, after the destruction of the town by the Logobards in 602 and by the Ungarns in 899, we only have few remnants of the Roman Era: the ruins of the great amphiteatre, some bridges and the precious evidences which are displayed inside the Eremitani Archaeological Museum. The recovery of the town was very slow, but after the year 1000 Emperor Henry III and Emperor Henry IV grant the town some important privileges. In the 12th c. Padua is a free Commune.

During the two following centuries it knows a quick development and with the Seigneury of the Carrara family (1338-1405) it reaches the height in its political power, extending its domination to a large part of central Veneto. It is a period of extraordinary economic and cultural ardour that left an indelible mark on the town: the Medieval City Walls, the great civil and the religious buildings the foundation of the University (1222), the second in Italy, which attracts masters and students from the whole Europe. The art panorama is dominated by the figure of Giotto, who left in Padua his masterpiece, the decoration of the Scrovegni Chapel; the great Florentine master is followed by Guariento, Altichiero, Giusto de’ Menabuoi, who left wonderful cycles of frescoes. The enlightened Seigneury of the Carrara family terminates in 1405: Padua is incorporated in the mainland dominions of Venice. But the artistic primacy continues during the first half of the 15th century, thanks to Donatello and Mantegna.

In the 16th century, under the government of the Serenissima Republic of Venice, Padua knows a great renewal. The town is surrounded by an imposing ring of walls and strongholds that establishes the definitive urban shape. New buildings and solemn churches rise up; the University goes through a period of great splendour: Galileo Galilei teaches here. The beautiful restoration of Prato della Valle, at the end of the 18th century, marks the end of four centuries of Venetian domination. After Napoleon Padua passes to Austria until the annexation to the Kingdom of Italy (1866). In spite of the destruction during the wars and some interventions disrespectful of the environmental goods, Padua keeps almost uninjured its urban structure. This compact organism guards many wonderful treasures. To the clever visitor the task of discovering them.

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