The Church of the Eremitani stands near the ancient Roman amphitheatre and the Scrovegni Chapel, famous for its Giotto frescoes.
Dedicated to the two saints Philip and James the Minor, it is known as Gli Eremitani because it was built and run by the Augustinian order of the Hermit Friars.
The complex, in fact, also includes a friary and dates back to the thirteenth century; it has always been a key part of the city’s life, in part due to its rich library, in part because of the large number of learned friars who taught at Padua University.
The upper section of the walls above the wide nave is decorated with bands of three colours – white, red and yellow – which imitate brick masonry. The original keel-vault wooden roof was the work Fra Giovanni degli Eremitani and was faithfully rebuilt after the damaged caused by the 1944 bombing raid.
Along the south side of the aisle are the four side chapels, culminating, in the south transept, in the Ovetari Chapel, where Mantegna worked on his famous frescoes from 1448 to 1457. Works of key importance for the Renaissance in Padua, these depcited Scenes from the Life of St. Christopher and would sadly be among the most renowned victims of the damaged caused to Italy’s cultural heritage during the Second World War.
On the north side of the church are two doorways; the one closest to the high altar end of the church leads into a vestibule from where one can reach the Sacristy and the Minor Cloister, also known as the Chiostro del Capitolo.