The Basilica of Santa Giustina

In this chapter we discuss one of the religious buildings that have become a symbol for the Paduan, the Basilica of Santa Giustina.

The Basilica of Santa Giustina, one of the largest churches in the world, emerges solemn and imposing against the background of Prato della Valle, in the southern part of the city of Padua. It is a Renaissance brick building that dates back to the 16th century, and is dedicated to the patron saint of the city, Santa Giustina, executed here in the 4th century at the age of 16 by Massimiliano's ferocious fury. Like many other churches, it has an incomplete façade, but this does not make the gigantic construction less fascinating, which, with its eight domes, conveys almost an oriental flavor. The first nucleus of the church was built just where it is today, from the martyr's father, Vitaliano, a high imperial official, on an ancient place of pagan worship.

The Basilica of Santa Giustina

A few centuries later, it would become the city's first Christian cathedral, gradually enriching itself with goods and relics, an important Benedictine monastery was built, which in the particularly violent earthquake of 1117 caused extensive damage to both the church and the surrounding buildings. The complex was finally demolished in 1502, to make way for the current colossus built between 1532 and 1579 by the architects Andrea Moroni and Andrea da Valle.

The Basilica of Santa Giustina

Its vast and grandiose interior develops on a Latin cross, divided into three naves with large pillars. It is one of the greatest masterpieces of Renaissance architecture, rich in marble decorations, mosaics and frescoes by the great masters of Italian painting. It houses a paleo-Christian shrine, in a small votive chapel, dedicated to San Prosdocimo, from the 5th century, the only and most precious example of early Christian sacred architecture in Veneto. Returning to the church we find a black marble plaque in memory of the Venetian Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, who died 38 years in 1684, and was the first woman graduated in the world in 1678.

Continuing in the Sacristy which preserves 17th century ligean furnishings, we find an altarpiece in the great main altar, made by Paolo Veronese in about 1575 and depicts the "Martyrdom of Santa Giustina". The corridor of the Martyrs, which connects the Basilica of Santa Giustina with the monastery, houses the ark of San Luca with a fourteenth-century sarcophagus containing the remains of the Evangelist. The precious monastery that in the past welcomed famous people like the Pope and Napoleon Bonaparte, is divided between the Chapter Cloister, built in the XII century in Romanesque style, and the Cloister Maggiore particularly decorated with different frescoes. The library holds about 80,000 volumes between the precious wooden shelves and the rich upholstery.

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