The Palazzo Bo, the main building of the University, hosted the Opening Ceremony in its famous Great Hall.|
The University of Padova, originally founded in 1222, became particularly important after it has been designated the only university in the republic by the Venetians and obtained a new charter from Pope Eugenius IV in 1439, which increased its privileges. It didn't have a single building until 1493, and from 1552 to 1601 the building was reconstructed, taking on its present form; it was renovated in 1938-42 by the architect Ettore Fagiuoli.
The old wing may be reached through the new courtyard: the two-tiered loggia in the old courtyard, designed by Andrea Moroni, is reachly decorated with the coats of arms of rectors and students which were placed here from 1542 to 1688; it is dominated by the bell tower (at midday the bells play the tune of a well-known student song). The two staircases which led to the loggia are both decorated with coats of arms: at the bottom of the right-hand one is a statue of "Elena Cornaro Piscopia" (1678), commemorating the first woman graduate.
From the upper loggia there is access to the rooms where the degree examinations of the various faculty are held. The door, above which there is Gerolamo Acquapendente's coat of arms, leads to the Anatomical theatre, which was buit in 1594 and is the first of its kind in the world. It has an elliptical plan and conical cross-section; in the centre there is a dissecting table, from where the bodies were despatched through a trap-door to an underground room; they were then buried in the church of San Martino which stood just opposite.
Next to this is the Faculty of Engineering Hall, while the Halls of the Faculties of Arts and Philosophy, Law and Science also given onto the loggia. The loggia also gives access to the old great hall, now called Sala dei Quaranta, because of the forty "Portraits of Illustrious Professors" painted in 1942; the supposed Chair of Galileo is kept here. From this hall the present Great Hall is reached; this was once the School of the Jurists where Galileo gave his lectures. It was rebuilt in 1854-56 and then in 1942.
Next follows the Basilica, so called because of the way it is divided into a "nave" flanked by two "aisles" by tall columns. Then there is the Sala del Collegio Accademico in which is located the bookcase decorated with carvings (1698-1704). This point marks the beginning of the new wing (1938-43), decorated by various contemporary artists. From the gallery the visitor descends the rectorate staircase, which was designed by Gio Ponti, who also painted the frescoes on the walls.
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