In Romanesque-Gothic style, the church of Santa Maria dei Servi is distinct because of its layout: the nave runs parallel to the street (Via Roma), with the street ‘frontage’ taking the form of an elegant portico that dates back to 1510 and rests on ten octagonal pillars that came from the Chapel of St. Anthony in the Basilica del Santo.
Under the arcade is a large and richly-decorated doorway that serves as the main point of entrance to the church. The result of extensive restoration in 1927-30, the interior takes the form of a single nave with a high ceiling of exposed beams. Opposite the entrance in the east wall stands a monumental Baroque altar dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows; this is the work of Antonio Bonazza, and is complete with a fifteenth-century statue of the Madonna and Child.
To the sides of this high altar are two chapels, the one of the left being particular noteworthy because it houses a wooden Crucifix by Donatello; the very first work the great sculptor created in Padua, this is associated with a miraculous event.
Records tell us that, in February 1512, the face and left side of the crucified figure of Christ began to sweat blood, and would continue to do so for a full fifteen days, right up to the start of Holy Week (the week before Easter), the then bishop of Padua, Paolo Zabarella, preserving a phial of the miraculous liquid. This extraordinary event would long overshadow the artistic value of the work, and only in 2006 would research by Marco Ruffini confirm its attribution to Donatello himself. After long and painstaking restoration, the Crucifix has returned to its original glory and is now back in the chapel.