Right in the centre of old Padova is the epic Palazzo della Ragione. It sits in between two grand squares, the Piazza Delle Erbe and the Piazza Delle Frutta. Often these piazzas fill up with market stalls, but on quiet days you will be blessed with a clear view of this grand old building.
The palace was originally built in the 12th century, but has been worked on and developed over the centuries. One of the greatest achievements was the single roof. Originally it took three roofs. The interior hall is nearly a hundred meters long, and is believed to have the largest unsupported roof in Europe.
Overlooking the same squares you can also find the enigmatic Torre degli Anziani.
Another sight to visit in the palace is the "stone of shame" that once stood outside the courthouse and on which debtors were humiliated. This all adds up for the fact that the Palazzo della Ragione is a very historic place to be indeed. We read our tour book and the signs nearby the building. This was a place for law making and enforcement including whipping and the executions. Don’t forget the fact that this nice building is worth admiring both inside (the frescoes) and the outside (the architecture).
Once we were outside again we had a nice walk all around it and truly could see that it is a medieval town hall building. We enjoyed the unique example of Italy's civilian architecture of the past. Don’t forget to check out the restaurants around the Palazzo della Ragione (actually there are two squares on both sides of the building). Right here we treated ourselves with a nice cold refreshments and relived our great visit to the Palazzo.
The Palazzo della Ragione has a length of 82 meters and a width of 27 meters and therefore claims to be one of the widest rooms with a roof unsupported by columns in Europe. They started the construction of this beautiful building in 1218. One of the first things that we admired was the fact that there were some good views from the veranda over the entire square with all its market stalls. But even more important is the space inside, this is so immense and full of interesting frescoes. We also loved the windows throwing light on the floor.
The one thing that did surprise us was the fact that there were almost no people inside. The entrance is free with the Padua Card and only a small EUR4,- for others. That can’t be the problem we guess. The good thing about this is that we were able to walk around just the way we wanted. We had a closer look at the big wooden horse that is kept in the Palazzo della Ragione. We learned that the restoration of this beautiful artifact was ended only in 2044, quite an operation though.
For sure Padua claims to be the oldest city in northern Italy, it was founded in 1183 BC. Much of its historical remains are still there and the Palazzo della Ragione (Hall of Justice) is a fine example of all the beauty the city has to offer. During our hike in the old city center of Padua we kind of bumped into this beautiful building. We started at the Via VII Febbraio, walked under a nice arcade and all of a sudden we were at the Piazza delle Erbe and stood in awe right in front of the amazing Palazzo della Ragione, what a beautiful building indeed!
Keep in mind that the Palazzo della Ragione is a necessary destination for those meandering about the historic center of town and the picturesque open-air markets. At First we were being distracted by the colour, smells, and cacophony of the sprawling outdoor fruit and vegetable market stalls. But after that we turned your attention to the magnificent Palazzo della Ragione. We were told that its interior had to be as impressive as its exterior. It was time for us to have a good look!
The Pallazo della Ragione is a beautiful example of 13th century gothic design. It is sandwiched between the Piazza delle Frutta and the Piazza delle Erbe. The building was built to serve as the City's government center and also the place for its courts.
While the outside is impressive the inside is even more so. Downstairs there is a number of open air markets and restaurants that seem to be particularly busy around lunch time. Upstairs there is a massive dark hall that is adorned with a large number of frescoes. At a height of 85 feet it is one of the largest halls in the world without supporting columns. The original paintings were done by Giotto but they were nearly completely destroyed in a fire in 1420. The existing ones are primarily by Niccolo Miretto and Stefano di Ferrara, working from 1425 to 1440 and following Giotto's frescoes. There is also a large wooden horse on the floor which is designed to replicate Donatello's Guatamala which sits across from the Basilica of Saint Anthony.
In the very center of Padova there is this huge building. It have been built starting on 1218.
The upper part is a only huge room with an amazing wooden roof structure and some outstandig frescoes.
It was used as the town court. There are several frescoes with animals shape figures that represent the different branches of law. One of them used to judge people with debts, usually their property were taken away and they were exposed to the public shame sitting on the pedestal you can see in one of the corners of the building.
Inside it is hosted a giant statue of a horse made of wood. This horse was one of several big statues part of a parade in the XV century. It is the only one saved.
The room is often used by the city for exhibit of various kind.
The lower part of the building host the traditional food market of Padova, there are cheese, meat and fish stand plus some caffe and bread shop. Go look in my shopping tips for more about this.
Recent restoration works on the markets of Palazzo della Ragione has made possible for the public to visit the underground part of this huge and interesting building.
From the galleries opened to the public it is possible to appreciate the different stratification of Padova, from roman time to later.
The visit is done only with reservation, on Tuesday and Thursday from 3pm to 7pm and Saturday morning 10am to 1pm. They admit only 15 people at a time and it is absolutely necessary to call or email in advance to make agreement on when to go, they never take more than the allowed number of people.
Admittance is 4 euros included the guide.
The meeting point is by the covered market entrance, about half way through the building, in the Piazza delle Erbe side.
Booking at www.arcadia-web.it or calling the number (+39) 049 8364363.
They can arrange English or German guide on request.
The Palazzo della Ragione is one of Padua's most famous and impressive historic buildings. It was built around 1200 AD and orignially served as the hall for Padua's parliament. The lower floors contain a market that seels food, among other things. The upper floor of the Palazzo is a vast enclosed space (80m x 25m), whose soaring 20m high walls are covered by frescos from the 1400s. Many of the frescos feature signs of the zodiac. The frescos were originally painted by Giotto in the 1300s, but had to be redone 100 years later when they were badly damaged by a fire. At one end of the upper floor is a large horse statue by the artist Donatello. On the outside of the building are covered walkways with painted vaulted ceilings. You have to pay a small fee to enter the upper floor, but it is worth it to see one of the most interesting buildings in Italy.
This huge wooden horse is dwarfed by the size of the hall - it isn't until You stand near it that You can appreciate how large it is!
It is so large, that it was actually assembled in sections in situ - in the Western end of the hall.
It was given as a gift to the city by the Capodilista family on December 11th 1837.
Originally it had been constructed in 1466 for a public tournament (I've also read that it was part of a roundabout, or that it was built to be pulled in procession at Paduan festivities ).
It was designed by Agostino Rinaldi - apparently it has mistakenly been thought to have been designed by Donatello, as its head and foot position are similar to that of the equestrian statue in front of Basillica Antonio, which Donatello did create.
Rinaldi modelled this wooden horses head , tail and legs on the aforementioned statue.
The horse statue previously resided in the Palazzo Capodilista.
Again. my photo's are dark, so not a good illustration.
Please see my previous tips for more information on the Palazzo della Ragione
The cycle of astrological frescoes is divided into 12 compartments- They follow an order.
So starting in the corner of the east and Southern walls, The first fresco represents March (Aries) and continues around the hall ending with February (Aquarius)
The 12 compartments are then divided into 3 rows of 9 panels.
These show the Apostle who opens the month, an allegorical representation of the month, its zodiacal sign, planet, constellations and the typical occupations and activities of the month.
There is a total of 333 panels - all individual paintings!
Then, the theories of Pietro d'Abano (1257 - 1315) - a philosopher and physician from Abano, who died in Padova, are interpreted in the depictions of 'individual astrological symbols'.
He thought that 'human traits and characteristics' were ordered by each of the 360 degrees in the ascendant in the zodiac at the moment of birth of each individual'
It took me a while to get my bearings, to work out where the East and South walls were, and I think I need to return to view the paintings in logical order - perhaps I'd time my visit for around mid day to see the sun ray hitting the meridian line (see my previous tip).
Again, I'm afraid my picture doesn't really illustrate the immenseness and richness of this unique artwork - this is one of the few that came out - and it's blurred - well a good reason to return one day to get better shots!
This huge palace was built between 1172 and 1218 to serve as law court and council chamber. What we see today dates from 1306 to 1309. The building has a great hall on the upper floor called "Salone" (lenght is 815 meters, breadth 27 m. heights 24m.) This hall was decorated with frescoes by Giotto with astrological themes, but fire destroyed this work in 1420. Then the hall was rebuilt and turned into a single room. Originally there were three. In 1756 a whirlwind damaged the frescoes and torn away the roof almost completely. The palace was restored again.
Inside the palace you can see also a big wooden horse built in 1466 and a stone called Pietra del Vituperio. Insolvent debtors had to sit on this stone in underwear three times before beign exiled. They had to say "cedo bonis" (I give away everything). If they dared to go back to Padova and they were caught they had to suffer the same retribution and three buckets of water were poured on their heads.
The Palazzo della Ragione (can be translated into Widsom's Palace) was the meeting room of the former City Council. Its contruction began in 1218 but, in 1306, Giovanni degli Eremitani gave it the present look, outstanding for such a period. The big saloon is really huge (it streches for 81 meters with a width of 27 meters and 27 meters high) and the dark wooden ceiling, reminds to a ship's bottom. Original frescos should have painted by Giotto, but were destroyed by fire in 1420. Nowadays frescos are younger but still quite ancient (XV° century).
There is a geogeos wooden horse, a copy of Donatello's horse and two egyptian sfiges. On a corner, you can see a Foucault's clock, which represents the strong connection between Padova and scientists (the University of Padova is very well renewed for scientific studies).
The Palace divides the most important squares of Padova and in one of its part, is nowadays location for the local administration.
Entrance fee without reduction: 4 euros
In the North Eastern corner of the huge hall is to be found the "Pietra del vituperio" or the Stone of Shame. A flat topped urn shaped stone on stone steps
This was possibly placed here in 1231, on the orders of Saint Anthony. It's purpose was to punish or ridicule insolvent debtors, before they were exiled.
Wearing only their underwear, the debtors were required to sit on the stone three times, and speak the words "Cedo bonis" (I renounce my worldly goods). They were then banished.
If they dared to return to the city and were caught, they had to go through the same procedure, but in addition 3 buckets of water were poured on their heads (I've also read that flour was thrown onto them)
Earlier, I'd witnessed some students graduating from the University, undergoing a similar humiliating ritual, whilst, reading from a large sheet of paper, drinking from a bottle of wine, and dressed in costumes - fellow students intermittently poured water over them, or threw flour - So I wondered if this tradition was being carried on here!!
The Palace of Reason is one of Paduas most important monuments.
It is sandwiched between the Piazza delle Erbe and the Piazza della Frutta.
The centre of Padova probably rose from an ancient Roman Forum, and through the centuries, this has remained an important civic, political and economic area.
Originally built between 1218 and 1219, the first floor contained 3 large halls where judges held court. Smaller rooms were for city officials such as the Tax collector. There was also a chapel to Sant Prosdocimo.
In 1306 Fra' Giovanni degli Eremitani enlarged this space - raising the walls to 6 metres and designing a new roof, decorated in stars and planets to resemble the sky.
Pietro d'Abano who was Professor of medicine and natural philosophy at Padova University inspired this work, which was created by Giotto (with help from his assistants, this took 2 years to complete) The renovation was carried out to to accomodate the law courts. (which functioned until the end of the 18th Century).
However, on Feb. 2nd 1420 fire destroyed this masterpiece of art and construction.
Restoration began immediately. A naval architect - Bartolomeo Rizza, rebuilt the ship bottomed vault, but removed all the partitioned rooms - thereby creating the vast single hall. Which became known as 'Il Salone' The Great Hall
Much of Giottos work was lost, but frescoes were repainted by local artists Nicolo Miretto and Stefano da Ferrara- being completed in the 1450s.
Further work was added by Jacopo da Montagnana and Domenico Campagnola.
A hurricane on August 17th 1756 blew off the roof, damaging the frescoes again.
3 Years later, the vault was re constucted, and Francesco Zannoni started restoring the frescoes (27.07.1762 - 27.09.1770) The original sky decoration, which had had more than 7,000 painted stars wasn't recreated.
Further work was carried out in 1963.
The 'Palazzo della Ragione', popularly known as ‘Il Salone’, was built in 1218. In 1306, a new floor, the arcade and the ceiling were added. Unluckily, the original decoration of the building by Giotto was destroyed in a fire in 1420. In 1425 Nicolo Miretto and Stefano de Ferrara made a new decoration.
There's a giant wood horse inside this Palace.