05.13.2017 - 05.18.2017
Padova is best known as the city of St. Anthony or the home of St. Anthony's Basilica, Il Santo. However, since I'm a non-Catholic woman and a former teacher, I was more inspired with the history of the University of Padua. Don't get me wrong, with the exception of The Vatican, the interior of St. Anthony's Basilica is the most beautiful cathedral I've ever seen. (Sorry, but I wasn't allowed to take any photos.) Though believe me when I say, it is an ELABORATE shrine to St. Anthony with numberous Giotto- style chapels, frescoed-walls and ceilings, marbled alters, gold and silver candelabras, and carved wooden confessionals, along with the mortal relics of St. Anthony and other famous people of the 13th & 14th centuries.
About this same time period and only a short distance away, the University of Padua (1222) was being established. Though it was initially a center for the study of law, it rapidly expanded to offer many other disciplines. Copernicus, a mathematician and astronomer, attended the University as did William Harvey, the doctor who described the circulatory system. Obviously the University had great teachers. In fact, Galileo Galilei actually taught there for 18 years (1592-1610), and acknowledged it to be among his happiest years. His classes were so popular that he had to lecture in the Great Hall, where his podium is still displayed at the entrance to the room.
The Univeristy of Padua is also known for establishing the world's first Anatomy Theatre (1594). It consisted of 6 concentric rows of carved walnut balconies above a dissecting table, in a small room with NO windows or any form of ventilation! Can you imagine how it must of smelled? Standing in the cramped area at the bottom, I couldn't believe a dissecting table with instructors would fit in the space.
Then in 1678, the University of Padua recorded another first. It was there that Elena Piscopia became the first woman in the WORLD to receive a PhD degree. She obtained a doctorate in philosophy yet taught that, as well as mathematics, at the University.
Hearing the history of the University, seeing it's ancient frecosed- walls lined with crests of the rectors and councilors, and imagining the smells took me back to a period where many great scientific discoveries were being made!
Currently, the school has about 60,000 students, and is still well-known for its spirit for tolerance and academic freedom; and in this world, we need more of that!