In 1318 Giacomo Da Carrara started the political rise of the family becoming Defender and General Captain and thus paving the way for the Carrarese Lordship, that will endure, except for some brief interruption, until 1405. The Lords Da Carrara will be announced Princes and in the century of their rule they will engage to give the city a more modern, vibrant ad elegant look, making it one of their major European capitals of the fourteenth century.
The itinerary develops around the city, from north to south, touching the main places linked to the Carrrarese epopee. In the arts, in the fourteenth century, Padua had exceeded any other Italian city for the amount of frescoed surfaces, for the quality of the formidable teams working within its churches, for its Court's cultural refinement, attended by Francesco Petrarca among others.
It starts from the Church of the Eremitani with Ubertino and Jacopo Da Carrrara's Mausoleums. The two sepulchral monuments come from the demolished Church of St. Augustine and they are the works of Andriolo de' Santi and collaborators. Under the Jacopo's mausoleum we can read the Latin epigraph dicted by Francesco Petrarca in honor of his dear friend and benefactor Carrarese. Next to the church there is the complex of the former monastery of the Eremitani that today hosts the Civic Museums, where there are preserved important Carrarese works, such as the wonderful series of Angels painted by Guariento Di Arpo, the first court painter of the Da Carrara, for the Chapel's decoration of the Reggia Carrarese. Adjacent to the Museums there is the Scrovegni Chapel, Giotto' masterpiece. Finally at the museums of Palazzo Zuckermann it is possible to observe Carrarese coins. The typical currancy of the Carrarese family is represented by a new small coin introduced under Ubertino, while the coin conceived to compete with those of Venice and Verona is the “big two-coin”, coined in silver under Jacopo II. Francesco I Da Carrara introduced the gold Ducat, and the silver Carrarese. It is attributed to Francesco I a small coin known as “bagattino”.
Moving to the heart of the city, passing in front of Palazzo Bo, the historical prestigious place of the University of Padua. The Carraresi family protected the Univesity and they did not affect the statues of autonomy and freedom, and they favored the influx of students from all over Europe and they called to teach at Patavino Studio the best teachers, inviting them to be part of their Chancellery and considering them family. In 1363 they obtained with Bull of Urbano V Pope the establishment of the Theology Faculty, which then existed only at the Sorbonne and in Bologna. Next stop is the Palazzo della Ragione, the heart of the city life for over 800 years. It was built in 1218-1219 to host on the first floor the administrative offices and the tribunals and on the ground floor shops. Between 1306-1309 Fra' Giovanni degli Eremitani renovated it by raising the side walls, the roof and the outer loggias.
Giotto painted a series of paintings based on the astrological theories of Pietro d'Abano, but a big fire destroyed the decoration in 1420. Immediately it was given the task to Nicolò Miretto and Stefano Da Ferrara to redecorate the walls with the same subjects. In 333 panels the twelve months are depicted, each one with its patron Saint, its zodiac sign, its constellations, the human typical activities of the period, the characteristics of those born under thart sign.
From Palazzo della Ragione in just a few steps we can reach Piazza dei Signori, one of the most evocative and lively area of Padua, one of the squares symbol of its history but also its vibrant and active present. It is so named because here stood the “Palazzo della Signoria”, the Mansion of the Carraresi. The square suited beautifully to meetings and to nobles walking. By the people it was first called the squares of “Desolation”, for the ruins of palaces, demolished by the opposite factions or parties; then the square of the “Triumphs” , for the magnificent celebrations that took place there. Here they did the rides, tournamnets and on Shrove Thurday it was represented the built hunt. On the west side stands the Palazzo del Capitanio, with the Clock Tower, whose porch overlooks the Capitaniato Court and neighbouring homonymous square, where it stood the Mansion of the Carraresi . Above the arch the big clock, reproduction of the one invented in 1344 by the doctor and astronomer Giovanni Dondi. Such was the popularity of the astronomical clock, one of the first made in Italy, that the Giovanni Dondi's descendents were called “dall'Orologio” until the nineteenth century.
The Reggia Carrarese, the mansion of the Lords of Padua, of which few traces remain incorporated in other monuments, was built by Ubertino Da Carrara starting from 1338 in the area near the Cathedral. It impressed a new particular development, modern and elegant, in the western part of the town and was a real insula in the city, worthy residence destined to host the magnificent Carrarese court. It also included the so-called “ferry”, a long hallway that connected the mansion to the castle and it was demolished in 1777. The palace was soon enriched by internal courtyards, gardens and orchard , by three large reception rooms decorated with frescoes, and by all a number of service areas such as kitchens, chancelleries and rooms for foreign military guard. Today a few remains are left of such magnificence: of the new building there is the Hall of the Famous Men (known as the Hall of the Giants) that of the era preserves a single precious fragment of a fresco depicting Francesco Petrarca in his office; of the old place was saved the double portico, known as the Loggia of the Acaddemy, elegant and refined example of the fourteenth-century architecture, and some rooms with frescoed scenes. On the first floor of the Academy can be perceived at least in part the environment of the Princes' private chapel. On the walls there are frescoes relating to the stories of the Old Testament made between 1349 and 1354 approximately by Guariento of Arpo, while the beautiful wooden tables with the angelic hierarchies, that once decorated the ceiling, are preserved at the Eremitani Museum.
In the Baptistery of the Cathedral can be still admired today, in all its glory, the wonderful cycle of frescoes commissioned by Fina Buzzaccarini, wife of Francesco il Vecchio da Carrara, Lord of Padua from 1350-1388. Made by Giusto de' Menabuoi, appointed court painter of Da Carrara after the death of Guariento, it still represent one of the most spectacular and best preserved pictorial cycles of the fourteenth century. A hundred scenes, executed between 1375-78 with the stories of Genesis, of Jesus, of St. John the Baptist and of the Apocalypse.
On the opposite side of Piazza Duomo, right in front of the Baptistery and the Cathedral, there is Casa Bonafari, belonged in the fourteenth century to Jacobello Da Milano and then to Baldo and Sibilla Bonfari, promoters and commissioners of the construction of the first modern hospital of Padua. Baldo a native of Piombino in Tuscany, moved to Padua to conduct the university studies in canon and civil law. He will reside permanently in the city of Padua and he will become referendum and adviser to Francesco Novello da Carrara, Lord of Padua. In 1390 he will marry Sibilia of the lords Cetto of Padua.
From the Cathedral by walking along Via San Gregorio Barbarigo and Riviera Tiso Camposampiero it leads within minutes to the Specola, once Torlonga of the Carrarese Castle, turned into an Astronomical Observatory in the eighteenth century, an extraordinary moniments that wrapped almost a thousand years of history of Padua and 250 years of astronomy.
The Carraresi walls
The whole circle properly of the Carraresi period (the third circle in chronological order) was completely demolished in the first half of the sixteenth century to be replaced by new ramparts of the Venetian period, which also followed roughly the trend. Remains, of Carrarese period or slightly above, a short section of the branch of the Acquette of the intermediate walls (or the second circle), in via Dimesse, the tower and a section of the boundary wall of the old town (now square Delia), the tower of the Catena or of the Soccorso (also known as Executioner's tower er Devil's tower), with the Soccorso's enclusure, a small stretch of the door's enclusure of Saracinesca, along with a few vestiges of uncertain reading (for example in Savonarola square or in the area of the morgue), or within buildings (house Breda in S. Sofia), or even seen and detected during archaeological excavations ( Viale della Rotonda). Moreover, the castle remains, in the form, albeit incomplete, that it acquired in the Cararese period, and there are few but significant traces of the old magnificence of the Da Carrara lord's mansion, as well as ferry, the large viaduct connecting the palace to the city walls and through these to the castle.
A few steps away from the Specola there is the Oratory of S. Michele, the fourteenth-century expansion of an existing church dedicated to S. Michele. This extension was made after the burning of the church that took place during the Castelvecchio's siege, during the reconquest of Padua from Visconti family by the last lord, Francesco Novello da Carrara II. In 1397 the chapel was frescoed with Mary's stories made by Jacopo da Verona on commission by Piero de Bovi, who belongs to a family linked to Carraresi.
From Piazza del Santo walking along via del Santo to returno to the historical center of Padua. At the crossroads with via S. Francesco we find in front of us Palazzo Zabarella, in the fourteenth century Carrarese mansion and which now hosts some prestigious exhibitions. From via S. Francesco we reach via Roma, where stands the church of S. Maria dei Servi, built in the late fourteenth century by the will of Fina Buzzaccarini, wife of Francesco il Vecchio da Carrara, and entrusted to the order of the Serviti. The building was built on the ruins of the former palace of Nicolò da Carrara, which was destroyed in 1327 when the same Nicolò betrayed Padua to ally with Cangrande della Scala. On the outside, the church features a long loggia, built in the early sixteenth century. The interior- an only nave with side chapels – preserves valuable works of art.
Retracing via Tiso da Camposampiro and then via Rogati (Palladio'sbirthplace village) we move to the area of the Basilica of Saint Anthony. Despite Fina Buzzaccarini and Francesco I da Carrara having elected the Baptistery of the Cathedral as a privileged place to become the mausoleum of the family, the power of the Lords of Padua is revealed clearly also in the Basilica of Saint Anthony. Francesco il Vecchio and its highest dignitaries are portrayed in al major fourteenth-century fresco cycles which still exist inside the basilica. Francesco il Vecchio, its highest court dignitaries and Francesco Petrarca with his favorite pupil Lombardo della Seta are portrayed in the “Dream of King Ramiro and the Clavigo Battle”, which is part of the beautiful fresco cycle realized by Altichiero from Zevio in the Chapel of S. Giacomo. We still find Francesco il Vecchio portrayed in the Chapel dedicated to Blessed Luca Belludi, where Giusto de' Menabuoi frescoed stories of S. Philippo and S. Giacomo on commission by Manfredino and Naimerio Conti, family members of Carraresi. Francesco il Vecchio is portrayed on horseback in the crucifixion's scene of S. Filippo. Finally, outside the Basilica of Saint Anthony, in the Oratory of S. Giorgio, the Altiichieri's frescoes portray the Carrarese court.
The Botanical Garden and the Carrarese Herbarium
Francesco Novello, the last lord of the city (1390-1405), had a marked interst towards scientific divulgation. Well known is the Carrarese Herbarium or “Liber agregà di serapion” (now preserved at London's British Library) that is separated from the tradition of the medieval herbals to the realism with which the different botanical species were shown, whom probably did not remain alien to the objectivity spirit, that presided over the scientific disciplines in the University. The founation of the Botanical Garden of Padua (1545) established by the University for the cultivation and study of medicinal plants, it was intended to facilitate the students in recognition of the true medicinal plants.
Since 1997 it is registered in the UNESCO's World Heitage List.