The Palazzo Santo Stefano Museum
Palazzo Santo Stefano is the historical seat of the Prefecture and Province of Padua, a treasure chest full of beauties and memories still mostly unknown by the citizens and tourists of Padua. Its origins go back to the year one thousand as a Benedictine monastery for nuns, and the building has undergone many changes since then, especially after the Napoleonic repressions of 1810. It has hosted the Provincial government and the residence of the Prefect since 1868. The architectural and artistic beauties within its rooms, especially the Council Chamber and the Grand Stairway in the historic entrance, make discovering this place worthwhile. The tour will also reveal something new and unknown to most people thanks to the work recently carried out by the Province: an underground anti-gas and anti-aircraft shelter built during the war. Palazzo Santo Stefano, therefore, opens its doors to schools, guests and citizens as an Urban Museum in the heart of Padua. It is part of a larger project of the Provincial museum network of conservation and enhancement.
Nineteenth century painting and sculpture at Palazzo Santo Stefano
The most significant element of the nineteenth century renovation of the building is the Council Chamber. Its decoration was completed in 1877 by Carlo Matscheg, a decorative artist from Belluno, and by the Venetian painter Giulio Carlini. The main attraction of the room, the Cacciata di Pagano by Carlini, dominates the ceiling. A rich sequence of city crests and tondi depicting historical figures from Padua is laid out in the drum. Alternating with these images are those of Agriculture, Industry, Teaching, Commerce, and the Brenta and Bacchiglione rivers. The three large windows and blind arches are flanked by pilasters with composite capitals, resting on footstalls. Ten beautiful cast bronze lamps are supported by grotesque cherubs along the walls. The bust of the president of the province Antonio Dozzi, by Natale Sanavio (1886), is situated on a marble pedestal in front of the balustrade loggia. The marble tondo of Umberto I’s portrait, and Vittorio Emanuele II’s bust are works by the Paduan sculptor Domenico Stradiotto.
Twentieth century transformations at Palazzo Santo Stefano
At the beginning of the 1900s, Piazza Antenore went through many urban transformations, including the culverting of a channel near Ponte Romano di San Lorenzo. Palazzo Santo Stefano changed in typology and elevations, assuming its present appearance. The architect Angelo Pisani designed the Grand Stairway in 1925, a remarkable work which characterizes the place. In 1934, the anti-gas shelter was completed – a refuge for 70 people – with a pedal electroventilation system. On June 14 1943, a procurement contract was signed with the Zoccarato Emilio Company from Padua, to build an anti-aircraft tubular shelter, costing 270,000 lire. On June 28 1944, a “U.N.P.A. anti-aircraft shelter”, costing 770,000 lire, was built in the garden of the Prefecture of Padua by the Grassetto Eugenio Company of Padua. In the cloister of the former Monastery of Santo Stefano, also the property of the Province of Padua, 4 more anti-aircraft shelters have been recently located: these structures were provided for the safety of the Tito Livio High School students.