So, my plans for Padua are falling into place (well, actually cemented into place, given how I love to over-plan.)
I've just made my "double-turn" reservation for the Scrovegni Chapel to see the Giotto frescos there, and I'm feeling extraordinarily excited about this.
Rules for visiting this gorgeous site are strict: pre-booking is mandatory and most tickets allow only a 15-minute visit (following a full 15 minutes in a decontamination room) because only 25 visitors are allowed in at a time, to protect these precious frescos.
However, the double-turn ticket allows me to spend a full 40 minutes inside the chapel with the Giotto frescos, which I have wanted for years to see. The chapel sounds truly magnificent. Annie gave such a wonderful description of the chapel after visiting it last year, that it only increased my interest in seeing these for myself.
Then, Zerlina mentioned the 40-minute ticket which is available some evenings after 7 p.m. As she noted, 15 minutes for a visit "is much, much too short to see it all," said Zerlina in a comment on my blog. "There are at least 45 panels. Do the math: three panels per minute, 20 seconds each." That is far too short.
So, my ticket will give me a full 40-minutes to gawk!!!! I worry slightly about the lighting in the evening. Still, I can't wait to be there; I really admire Giotto's work and have made several visits to San Francesco in Assisi to see what may (or may not) be his work. It seems there is some question about how much of the design and work there is really his. I chose to believe Giotto was an important force in Assisi.
In any event, in preparation for Padua, last night I reviewed Sister Wendy's discussion of the Scrovegni chapel and Giotto's efforts to capture the humanity of the people in his scenes. (Sister Wendy Beckett's Story of Painting DVD produced for the BBC is a favourite of mine!)
She argues that while other artists of the time had loftier aims, often portraying the Holy Family or saints as being far above the rest of us, Giotto tried to portray them in his frescos as real humans with real emotions. In this way, the people of Padua and their visitors could relate to what they were seeing, for example, the pain Mary must have suffered as she cradled her dead son as portrayed in the above fresco of the Lamentation (The Mourning of Christ.) This reproduction is taken from the Scenes from the Life of Christ cycle in Padua and shown on the website The Web Gallery of Art.
Giotto's frescos date back about 700 years, which boggles my mind! According to WGA, work on this chapel began in roughly 1300 when Enrico Scrovegni of Padua, wanting to build a palace and private chapel, bought a large piece of land in the area around the town's Roman amphitheatre -- known as the Arena. Which helps to explain why the word "Arena" is often associated with the Scrovegni chapel.
It seems that Scrovegni wanted to improve his family's standing with The Powers That Be -- Enrico was the ambitious son of the rich Reginaldo, whom Dante Alighieri had consigned to hell as a usurer in his Divine Comedy. According to WGA, the redemption of his father and the saving of his own soul were his foremost considerations when making this donation. The church was therefore dedicated on 16 March 1305 to Saint Mary of Charity.
All that remains today of his buildings is the single-nave church, known to many as the Arena Chapel because of its location. Apparently, Scrovegni is depicted in one of Giotto's frescoes, on the side of the Blessed at the Last Judgment.
The nave of the church is vaulted by a starry sky with the two centres of Christ and Mary, the Last Judgment in the west and the Annunciation in the east, witnessed by God. The story of Mary is narrated on the upper register of the walls - beginning with scenes from the lives of her parents, Joachim and Anne - and the youth of Christ and the story of his Passion are narrated on the two lower registers.
The frescoes in the Arena Chapel have been considered as Giotto's first mature masterpiece, and at the same time as an important milestone in the development of western painting.
On a more prosaic note, I'll be traveling to Padua from Ferrara by train, and will have a full day to fill (including a couple of feedings) before my 7 p.m. date with Giotto. Thanks to Annie for her earlier suggestion I have lunch at the Snack Bar “Il Gancino” in the Piazza Duomo. I'm now seeking any other ideas on what else to do in Padua before my date!