One of the cultural excursions with my school was to the city Padova, located in the Veneto region. The group and I stayed overnight in Padova in the more modern section of town, only a couple of blocks from the historic center, at the Hotel Plaza. We were fortunate enough to have a tour guide of the city. I was much too busy capturing the beautiful architecture and everyday life with my camera to pay much attention to what she was saying. Actually, I’m not even sure if she conducted the tour in English or Italian, but it was probably done in English. The buildings spoke for themselves.
One of the most famous architectural pieces in the city is Saint Anthony’s Basilicata. Let’s just say that St. Pat’s cathedral in New York City is a miniature-sized model compared to this basilica. Here rest the ‘remains’ of Saint Anthony, happily displayed in paganistic fashion. (Hey, I’m Catholic. I can say it!) Why on earth would I say such a thing? Well, let me explain why. Saint Anthony was an orator. Upon exuming his body well after he had died, they discovered his tongue was still intact after opening his mouth. The shriveled tongue was placed in an air-tight display case, embellished with an ornate gold setting. All throughout Italy you can find many displays of such kinds. This past summer, on the islands of Tremiti in Southern Italy, my boyfriend and I stumbled upon a mummy. Out of respect for the dead, I did not take a picture, although it would have been nice to be able to show those what I had seen!
On our travels throughout the city, we also visited the University of Padova, and La Cappella degli Scrovegni (The Chapel of the Scrovegni), a chapel famous for its frescoes painted by Giotti. In 1300, a nobleman by the name of Enrico Scrovegni purchased the land, initially intending to build a house. The chapel was built next to it, dedicating it to the Virgin Mary, and his father’s, Reginaldo, soul. He is mentioned in Dante’s “Inferno” canto. It was in this chapel that he commissioned Giotto to paint his frescoes, depicting events in the lives of Mary and Jesus. There is also a scene of “The Last Judgement” in which Jesus over the main entrance, the Blessed placed to his right, and the Damned to his left.
Before entering the chapel, those touring it must enter an air conditioned room to acclimate one’s body temperature to the temperature inside the chapel. That day the temperature was well over 90 degrees, and from all the walking, sweating was unavoidable. Scientists say that the moisture from the skin, and merely just breathing, ruin the frescoes. Therefore, each group that enters the chapel is given a certain amount of time to view the art. The flashing from cameras also damages the frescoes, so using a camera is prohibited.
After seeing the chapel, we head towards the center of town to go back to our buses, and came upon a said tradition when a student graduates from college – public humility. Upon graduation, humiliating things are done to the graduates, such as being smeered in pies, wearing a tutu, and even public beatings. During the public beatings, those walking along the street are asked to volunteer to help. Two long rows of people are formed through which the graduate must run barebacked. When passing by, the people must slap the back of the graduate. Pretty brutal if you ask me. Below are some pictures of the torture.