From Giotto and the Scrovegni Chapel to Palazzo della Ragione: the fourteenth-century frescoes of Padua recognized by Unesco as a World Heritage Site

From Giotto and the Scrovegni Chapel to Palazzo della Ragione: the fourteenth-century frescoes of Padua recognized by Unesco as a World Heritage Site
From Giotto and the Scrovegni Chapel to Palazzo della Ragione: the fourteenth-century frescoes of Padua recognized by Unesco as a World Heritage Site

Not only the immense beauty of the Scrovegni Chapel, frescoed by Giotto, but also other pictorial cycles and the palaces or churches that host them: the fourteenth century painting in Padua has been recognized by Unesco as a World Heritage Site. The decision was made in China during the 44th Assembly of the organization that deals with cultural and environmental protection. Padua therefore adds a second world-class site, in addition to the Botanical Garden, which was designated in 1997. Thus the number of homegrown beauties included in the list rises to 56, making Italy the first nation in the world. The last site proclaimed Unesco heritage two years ago was the Prosecco Hills from Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, in the province of Treviso.

“Padova city picture, la Scrovegni Chapel di Giotto and the fourteenth-century fresco cycles of Padua ”. This is the exact term chosen by Unesco for a widespread site in the city. In fact, it is divided into four areas. The first includes the Scrovegni Chapel and the complex of the Church of the eremitani. The second consists of the commercial heart of medieval Padua with the Palace of the Reason, the Palazzo dei Carraresi, Piazza del Duomo and the Baptistery. In the third part there is the complex of the Basilica of Sant’Antonio, with in particular the Chapel of the Madonna Mora and the Chapter Hall. The last part consists of the small church of San Michele, frescoed by Jacopo from Verona. In addition to the latter and Giotto, the artists mentioned in the Unesco data sheet are Pietro and Giuliano da Rimini, Guariento di Arpo, Giusto de ‘Menabuoi, Altichiero da Zevio and Jacopo Avanzi. These are different works from each other, with a common thread that binds them, in addition to the time in which they were made. They are part of that research of the spatial perspective combined with the knowledge of the science of the time that created the premises of Renaissance painting and brought about a revolution in interpreting and representing men and their feelings.

The Unesco Commission verified the integrity of the frescoes, especially after the detachment of small parts of the works. However, he acknowledged that Italy had done an excellent job of conservative restoration, putting the fragments back in their original position. However, UNESCO has made some recommendations. In particular, he asks for an overall plan for the enhancement of the works and constant monitoring of the humidity of the air in all parts of the buildings that house the frescoes. In the Scrovegni Chapel, the control is already strict, with an airlock before visitors enter and with limited time to admire the frescoes, so as not to alter the optimal conditions of conservation.

The road to recognition began in 1996 when the Ministry for Cultural Heritage proposed the candidacy of the Scrovegni Chapel. Ten years later the proposed site was extended to other places in the city that preserve the frescoed cycles. It is in 2012 that the real path of the site begins under the name of “Padova urbs picta”. The bodies involved are numerous: the Galilean Academy of Sciences, Letters and Arts, the Basilica del Santo, the Pontifical Delegation, the Veneranda Arca del Santo, the Diocese of Padua as well as the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, the Municipality of Padua and the University. . In 2016 the new candidacy was included in the list of applicants after the choice of the Italian National Commission for Unesco to make it the only site proposed for 2019-20. Then the sending of the dossier and the visit of the inspectors, who verified, fresco by fresco, the validity of the Italian proposal, not only its artistic value, but also the work in progress to preserve it.

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