In this chapter we discuss one of the most important areas of the historic center, in fact here is the Padova Cathedral and the Baptistery.
The Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, also called the Padova Cathedral, is the main place of Catholic worship in the historic center of Padua, located a few steps from the city's main squares. The building initially built on the site of an ancient early Christian cathedral, was consecrated and damaged several times over time. Despite the earthquake of 1117 which caused much damage, the cathedral was redesigned again, with the collaboration of Michelangelo Buonarroti, but substantial changes were made to the original project, until 1754, when the Cathedral was completed by the Venetian architect Girolamo Frigimelica. Today it appears in the guise of its sixteenth-century reconstruction, with three small portals and two mediocre rose windows.
It has an unfinished red brick façade, like many other buildings in the city, modest and without architectural impulses, but its long and tormented history of invasions and earthquakes does not deprive it of a certain charm. On the square in front of the Padova Cathedral, at one time, the characteristic pig market was held, until the square was given to the church, which turned it into a cemetery. Its majestic Latin cross-shaped interior is divided into three naves and recalls, on a smaller scale, the Basilica of Santa Giustina. Not to be missed is the Sacristy of the Canons, which preserves important works of art, such as the Madonna with Child by Giusto de ’Menabuoi, and two splendid paintings by Giandomenico Tiepolo. In the crypt we can appreciate the altar of San Daniele with bas-reliefs by Tiziano Aspetti. Under the cathedral are preserved mosaics, terracotta urns, pieces of columns, carved stones, animal bones, which were probably part of ancient pagan sacrifices.
On his right, always facing Duomo Square, we find the Baptistery, one of the most sparkling examples of fourteenth-century art. This enchanting niche is owed to the wife of Francesco il Vecchio da Carrara, Fina Buzzaccarini, who chose it as the site of his last rest, later turning it into a mausoleum for the entire dynasty. The baptistery was decorated by Giusto de Menabuoi, between 1374 and 1376, with splendid frescoes depicting various episodes from the life of St. John the Baptist, Mary and Jesus. Finally, the representation of Paradise inside the dome is spectacular, with an enormous Christ in the center surrounded by a multitude of saints.