Friday, April 16, 2004

Breakfast, Temple, Frescoes and Friends in Padova (by Sarah)

PADOVA (#44)

We woke up on Friday to another pleasant morning in the house of Giovanni and Giulianna.  After our all-day trip to Venice the day before, we had decided to take it easy, enjoy breakfast at their house, see the Synagogue in Padova and then the Capella Degli Scrovegni, and then meet Margherita and Benedetto for lunch. I absolutely love Giovanni and Giulianna's house. From the outside, it looks like a normal house. They also share the house with a neighbor. On the inside, it’s really modern. All the floors are really gorgeous, dark wood. They had three really nice bathrooms. Most of the walls were white and there were modern looking lamps, so everywhere was always bright. The railings up the stairs were metal and at the top there was a plant that grew and was winding down the railings. It was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. They had a lot of plants around too and the atmosphere was just really nice. I hope my house is exactly like theirs.

Orna and Annie back in the United States
The other really wonderful thing about their house was their dog, of course! Franz is a huge German Shepard, and as sweet as can be, He has the cutest face! He’s open to all visitors and likes to be petted. When you pet him, he kind of leans up against you. It’s so cute. Another great moment was when Giovanni was going to take Franz for a walk, and he said the magic word “Andiamo!” (“Let’s go!”) Franz got so excited and started kind of jumping around in a circle. It was so funny and so sweet! It was great to have Franz there, but it made us all miss our dog, Annie, back at home.

After a nice breakfast of cookies, bread, and yogurt we set off to see the temple in Padova. Giovanni knows a Jewish lady and so he made an appointment with her so she could show us the temple and the old area of the Ghetto in Padova. She was very smart and knew a lot about the Jews who lived and are living in Padova. She made her whole speech in English, not Italian, so that we could all understand (Giovanni and Giulia both speak English too). I found the temple to be one of the more interesting temples in Italy. The bimah (pulpit) is really high up off the ground, and kind of attached to the wall. There are staircases on both sides of it. Across the room is where the arc is. Both of these are in the center of the temple, and not at one end like they usually are. There was a separate area and balcony for women too. The floors were marble and the arc was marble too. The whole temple was very baroque influenced. We could tell by the big marble columns and decorations on the arc. The walls looked marble but they really were just painted so they seemed to be marble. The seats were all very old and wooden. Some of them had plaques with names on them.

Then we left the temple and walked practically across the street to see the limits of the old ghetto. Even though there were only 700 people here at its peak, it was tiny. Things became bad for the Jews in 1492 when the Franciscan Minorite Friars had a big campaign against the Jews, and then things got even worse when they were blamed for the murder of a young Christian boy. The sacking of the community began in 1509 by the troops of Maximilian of Habsburg, and was looted again by the Venetians who drove out the Austrians. In 1603, after 50 years of debate, the Jews were put into the ghetto where they payed double than everyone else to live in conditions ten times worse. In 1621, the plague broke out and disaster struck in the ghettos. The poor heath conditions made the disease thrive and spread. It killed 421 of the 721 Jews who were living in Padova. Life began to shape up again for the Jews after the plague passed and the ghetto area was famous for the trade and market. But, in 1684, the ghetto was looted again by the Venetians. The Jews had to stay confined in their ghetto for about six days until the riots faded. Around the same time, Jews began to be accepted in schools and such, although they had to pay much more than the other students had to.

Most Jewish people studied medicine. Problems arose when the University started to demand the bodies of dead Jews to dissect because it was against the Christian religion. A little later on, the Fascists did more horrible damage to the Jews in the ghetto. They actually set fire to the rabbi’s house, and he had to run for his life.

It was so great to be in a place in Italy where there was such a strong Jewish history. It was also very neat to be walking around in the exact place where everything happened and to be conversing with a woman with a wonderful connection with the community.

Leaving the old ghetto area, we agreed to meet Giovanni later and we went to find some old friends of dad’s – Margherita and her family. My dad’s sister, Beth, stayed with Margherita and her family to teach them english and they are still in touch. We met them at Margherita’s and her husband Benedetto’s office. They share a law firm, and their daughter Mara is an employee. Their other daughter is an architect. We had a nice chat with them, and agreed on meeting them for lunch.

Flight into Egypt, Giotto
Capella degli Scrovegni, Giotto, 1304
After that, we rushed to meet Giovanni. He had made reservations and gotten us tickets to see Giotto’s work in the Capella degli Scrovegni. Only 25 people are allowed in the chapel at one time for only 15 minutes, or else our breathing might affect the frescoes (talk about hardcore…). Before going in, our group was sat down and we saw a short movie about the chapel. It was in Italian and had German and English subtitles. It was really helpful to understand exactly what it was we were seeing. The chapel belonged to the very wealthy Scrovegni family. The chapel was designed so that the people entered through the façade, but the Scrovegni family had their own side door to enter into the building. They commissioned Giotto to paint it between 1304 and 1306. He painted the stories of Mary, Jesus, and some of the saints. The ceiling was an incredible blue with bright stars, so it looked like a night sky. The colors were just fabulous; the restorers had done an exceptional job. The whole façade of the chapel was the scene of the last judgement. I saw many of the same ideas that Dante described in his “Inferno”. With only 15 minutes, we successfully identified most of the scenes, I mean c’mon, we’re experts by now!

The Capella degli Scrovegni was amazing, and we had worked up quite an appetite! Giovanni knew a good Osteria (restaurant) nearby, so we called Margherita and met her and everyone there. We had a great lunch and then said goodbye to everyone and set off for Lecco…

COMMENTS from the original blog

2004-04-26 10:53:15 marv
Re: Breakfast, Temple, Frescoes and Friends in Padova
I think having the bima in the middle of the room is the Sephardic style. 

2004-05-02 01:53:3644 BubbieBarbi
Re: Breakfast, Temple, Frescoes and Friends in Padova
Sarah, This is a lucid and colorful account of your adventure.  As I read, I felt as if I were there with you (and wished I were).

Roberta Shaw (ask your father) would have been very pleased with your writing.  I am!

2004-05-04 15:14:1744 auntbeppie
Re: Breakfast, Temple, Frescoes and Friends in Padova
I loved reading about Padova Sarah.  We were there last May, so it is still fresh in our memories. How did you like the law office of Costantino?  So modern and beautiful, non è vero?

So glad you could meet my italian family.


2004-05-06 05:23:5444 sarah
Re: Breakfast, Temple, Frescoes and Friends in Padova
The law office was extremely modern and very cool! e' vero!! 


2004-05-06 10:12:2544 Barbara
Re: Breakfast, Temple, Frescoes and Friends in Padova
What a fascinating account of the history of the Jewish people in Padova.  Your account of the  Capella degli Scrovegni recalled to me the Brancusi Capella in Florence which must also be protected from too many visitors. Only 16 people are allowed in for 15-minute viewings and they also show a very helpful video.  It's located in the Oltr'arno section (other side of the Arno).

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