Padova Urbs Picta, with ‘The frescoed cycles of the 14th century’, has now been included in the World Heritage List, the Unesco World Heritage list. The proclamation took place during the 44th extended session of the World Heritage Committee, scheduled to run until July 27 in Fuzhou, China, with the remote participation of delegations from 192 countries and global streaming coverage of the event. “We had to wait an extra year to receive this recognition, due to the pandemic, but the emotion I felt at the time of the proclamation was enormous. This – comments the mayor of the Venetian city Sergio Giordani – is the recognition of the very important role played by the city in the history of art, but also of the intuition and courage we had in successfully proposing a serial site as well as the ability to team up with everyone. the owners of the buildings and monumental complexes that hold these masterpieces “.
Padua Urbs picta’s candidacy was the only one presented by Italy for 2020. The inscription on the World Heritage List comes this year, after the postponement of the 2020 Unesco Committee session due to the Covid-19 pandemic . Therefore, both the 2020 and 2021 candidacies are announced during this session, which for Italy sees the possible proclamation of ‘I Portici di Bologna’ being discussed.
These are the main passages with which Unesco motivates the inclusion of Padova Urbs picta in the World Heritage list: “The Paduan frescoed cycles illustrate the important exchange of ideas that existed between the protagonists of the world of science, literature and the arts visuals in the prehumanist climate of Padua at the beginning of the fourteenth century. The artists showed great skill in giving visual form to these ideas and their technical skills allowed the Paduan fresco cycles not only to become a model for others, but also to prove themselves remarkably resistant to the passage of time. The group of artists in search of innovation, gathered in Padua, at the same time favored an exchange of ideas and a know-how that led to a new style in the fresco. This new style not only influenced Padua throughout the fourteenth century, but formed the inspirational basis for centuries of fresco work in the Italian Renaissance and beyond. With this real revival of an ancient painting technique, Padua has provided a new way of seeing and representing the world, heralding the advent of the Renaissance perspective. These innovations mark a new era in the history of art, producing an irreversible change of direction ”.
Padua has proposed the registration to the Unesco World Heritage List a ‘serial site’ that includes all the precious and large frescoed cycles of the fourteenth century preserved in eight buildings and monumental complexes of the city: the Scrovegni Chapel, the Church of Santi Filippo e Giacomo to the Eremitani, the Palazzo della Ragione, the Chapel of the Carrarese Palace, the Baptistery of the Cathedral, the Basilica and the Convent of Sant’Antonio, the Oratory of San Giorgio and the Oratory of San Michele. During the fourteenth century, some of the most extraordinary artists of the time frescoed the walls of these places: Giotto, who created his absolute masterpiece with the frescoes of the Scrovegni Chapel, Guariento di Arpo, Giusto de ‘Menabuoi, Altichiero da Zevio, Jacopo Avanzi and Jacopo da Verona.
And it is Giotto himself who, when he arrives in Padua around 1302, brings to the city a new artistic language from which an extraordinary season of culture and art develops that will continue throughout the fourteenth century. The great fourteenth-century Paduan frescoed cycles represent a unique example in the world of a system of exceptional universal value – outstanding universal value to use the UNESCO terminology – for their historical-artistic relevance, for their breadth (over 3600 square meters of wall paintings) , because within a defined area, that is the historic center of Padua, in a territorial context in which the tradition of the painted wall has been documented since the 10th century.
The frescoes in these eight places, a few hundred meters away from each other and which therefore make up an itinerary in the heart of the medieval city that can be traveled on foot, also offer those who are not connoisseurs of art history unique visions: thanks to Giotto, feelings and emotions are represented for the first time in the frescoes. In the Scrovegni Chapel we have the first pictorial representation of a kiss, the kiss between Joachim and Anna at the Jerusalem gate, and just as surprising is the tear that lines the face of a woman in the scene of the Massacre of the Innocents. In Padua, in the approximately 90 years from 1305 to 1397, a revolution in figurative art takes place which, in addition to the representation of feelings, is based on a rediscovery of the fresco technique, an innovative use of color and the invention of perspective that it will then be perfected in the following centuries.
The victory of Padua is also the result of the “ability to work as a team”, remembers the mayor of the city Giordani who specifies: “A team that also includes the other institutions, starting with the Superintendency and the University and which extends to all the associations that have collaborated in the project. A joint commitment of the whole city. I thank Unesco, the Ministry of Culture and all the institutions and organizations that have believed in us at every level. Now we have a great responsibility that we are aware of. therefore today it is not a goal, but the starting point of a new commitment that we undertake with the support of Unesco to live up to this prestigious recognition that will have positive effects on our city both for its roots and its identity, which for its economic repercussions. From today the frescoes of our “wonderful Padua” are finally World Heritage. It is an immense joy that I will never forget “.
“The frescoes of an entire century, the fourteenth century, preserved within the space of the city walls – explains the Councilor for Culture of the Municipality of Padua Andrea Colasio – constitute an extraordinary heritage that sees, starting from Giotto’s masterpiece, an intertwining not only of works of art of high value, but also significant relationships between artists and clients, between political and religious power, in the only city that has managed to develop and transform the revolutionary artistic language of the Tuscan master. Today it is up to us the not easy but absolutely stimulating task of preserving and enhancing these masterpieces and we do it by offering the whole world a set of unique places, extraordinary in their singularity, but even more precious when considered as a whole. In recent years, the interest on the part of Italian and foreign visitors for the city of Padua has unquestionably been growing, as has the attention of scholars from all over the world who look to our city as the world capital of frescoes. I thank Unesco, the Ministry of Culture as well as all the people in Padua and beyond who have passionately spent their time supporting our candidacy for the World Heritage List. In Padua in the fourteenth century with the Carraresi the concept of cultural policy was born. With this recognition we close a circle and we want to be at the forefront in the conservation, study and enhancement of this heritage which is indeed in the DNA of our city but which also certainly represents one of the key moments in world art history “.
The Municipality of Padua is the leader of the nomination committee, made up of the other three entities that own the buildings and monumental complexes that preserve the frescoed cycles – Galilean Academy of Sciences, Letters and Arts; Basilica and Convent of Sant’Antonio; Pontifical Delegation and Veneranda Arca del Santo; Diocese of Padua – with the Veneto Region and the scientific advice of the Ministry of Culture through the Unesco Office and the Superintendence of Archeology, Fine Arts and Landscape for the metropolitan area of Venice and the provinces of Belluno, Padua and Treviso as well as the University of Padua.
The complex dossier necessary for the presentation of the candidacy was edited, developed and created directly by the Municipality of Padua which made use of the excellent professionalism available to the Sector and the Department of Culture and the consultant Giorgio Andrian. A candidacy that has strengthened its strength and credibility also through the significant synergy of the entire city: different realities, public and private, secular and religious, united together to preserve, protect, enhance, promote a unique historical and artistic heritage and to be able to deliver it intact to future generations around the world.
This commitment, which began in 1996, produced a first result, in 2018 when Padova Urbs picta, was designated by the Italian National Commission for Unesco as an Italian candidacy for the World Heritage List for 2020. Icomos (International Council on Monuments and Sites), without raising any objections, last May gave an even more significant force to the candidacy, proposing that the frescoed cycles of the fourteenth century be directly registered in the World Heritage List and indicating the specific criteria for registration.
Today, thanks to this recognition, Veneto becomes the Italian region with the largest number of UNESCO sites and Padua one of the few cities in the world to keep two. In fact, since 1997, the Botanical Garden of the University of Padua has been a Unesco site. Built in 1545, it is in fact the oldest vegetable garden in the Western world to still preserve the shape and location of its origins, having kept its cultural and scientific mission intact for more than five centuries.