Chiesa degli Eremitani in Padova, Italy
While in Verona, we took a day trip to the city of Padova and stopped to visit Chiesa degli Eremitani. The church didn’t seem like anything special from the outside but upon entering, Gary and I noticed quite a few things.
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The church is dedicated to Saints James and Philip. It is traditionally known as the Eremitani because of the once adjoining convent. With the convent long gone, this area now is a museum. Although, on the side of the facade still remain traces of the access door to the convent area, with the signs of the call bell.
The facade is divided horizontally into two parts. The lower part is stone, with a portal in the center and four arches on the sides. The upper part of the church is in terracotta, with a beautiful central rose window.
This beautiful church of the Eremitani was built between 1276 and 1306. The church suffered heavy destruction in 1944 which has since been reconstructed, saving the remarkable frescoes that were almost lost forever. After the reconstruction, two original frescoes painted by Mantegna, the Assumption of the Virgin and the Martyrdom of Saint Christopher were relocated as they were not damaged by the bombing.
On March 11, 1944, the Allied Forces bombarded this church but were actually aiming at the German barracks nearby. The Ovetari Chapel was destroyed as a part of this raid. Only the two lower panels of the right wall of this Chapel remain today. So sad to think that a church had to be damaged this way. Here are some photos that are hung on the walls of the church as a reminder.
Inside Chiesa degli Eremitani
The interior has a single nave, with an amazing wooden ceiling that to me, reminds me of a hull of a boat. The walls are decorated with alternating bands of red and ocher bricks and are quite striking. Fragments of faded frescoes adorn the walls. The brightness of the original colors is long gone but you can imagine what they once looked like.
The statues and frescoes that fill this church are beautiful but especially against the backdrop of this stripped interior. The narrow bands are quite unusual; especially the colors. I found it almost as beautiful as a painting itself.
An Odd Find
When we approached the right side of the apse, where the Ovetari Chapel was, there was an odd-looking fresco. What were these holes and why does it look like white tissue paper laid on top of the painting?
We found informational posters providing us with some answers. These were fragmented frescoes by Andrea Mantegna, a 15th-century Italian painter. His paintings grace such worldwide renown museums like the Louvre in Paris and the National Gallery in London.
The Mantegna Project is the virtual restoration of this fresco. A computerized database of hundreds of fragments from the destroyed original fresco was in boxes; carefully labeled and numbered. Numbers identified the correct positions in reference to a particular scene. It was painstakingly put back together like a puzzle. The restorers then printing on paper the graphic mapping of the wall in true scale, to be used as confirmation and guide to the actual positioning of the fragments. This is the result of their work. We can see today what the fresco would have been like prior to the bombing.
You can find out more official information about hours and location here: Padova Information