The Nineteenth Century
It is not always possible to know the original spatial organization of places that have been inhabited uninterruptedly for many decades: especially for the oldest periods, written records of changes to the environments, if any, have been lost, so as to make it difficult, at present, to reconstruct their first physiognomy.
This also applies in part to the Santa Caterina complex: from the time the monastery was built in the seventeenth century to the Napoleonic suppression two centuries later, no source describes the spaces inhabited by the nuns; these, moreover, were scarcely accessible from the outside, given the rigid cloister in which the community lived. Fortunately, in our case it is possible to know the state of the place thanks to the meticulous appraisal drawn up by Engineer Pivetta in 1827, with the aim of establishing the economic value of the complex in view of the purchase by the priest Antonio Maluccello, who until then had rented it. It is a precious source, which describes the rooms exactly as they were left by the Illuminate sisters: Maluccello, in fact, despite having taken over the management of the building for more than a decade, had not made any major changes, so that «the room still bears its imprint of a monastery, with parlor grates, numerous cells on the upper floor, small rooms, a refectory, a kitchen, adjacent areas and beyond the two cloisters a certain amount of land for garden use. There reigned in general the appearance of a great poverty»(Un'opera di redenzione, 1931, p. 19).
When the complex became the property of De Foretti, the situation was no different: the canon was mainly involved in the construction of the new Soccorso, which was connected to the building of Santa Caterina, while the latter was subject to maintenance works and small restorations, which did not change its appearance. Furthermore, in 1844 the garden in front of the entrance of the structure was granted for free by the Municipality of Padua.
The Twentieth Century
With the new century, and after an inspection by a representative of the National Opera for the Protection of Motherhood and Childhood, the conditions of the Pii Conservatori were judged unsuitable to host young people and to meet the needs of daily life and teaching. It was decided, therefore, to intervene with a massive restoration of the buildings, which was conducted for a year and completed in August 1931.
As shown by the numerous projects prepared by the technical studio of the architect Vincenzo Bonato, who was in charge of the direction of the works, the operation took place on two levels. On the one hand, the old buildings were rearranged: starting from the façade of the institutes, the parlours, the theater halls, the courtyards were improved, the rooms were equipped with radiator heating, the corridors were paved on the first floor and a general whitewashing was carried out..
On the other, two new wings of the building complex were built (in red, in the plan below), for a more adequate distribution of space. These new buildings were used as refectories and a chapel for the Soccorso on the ground floor and infirmaries and dormitories on the first floor, the first one of 29 beds for the girls of Santa Caterina, the second one of 22 for the young girls of the Soccorso.
At the end of the century, the property was in a state of abandonment.
It was therefore decided to renovate and reorganize the building in order to make it the new seat of the Faculty of Statistical Sciences of the University of Padova. On that occasion, the complex of Santa Caterina did not suffer substantial alterations in the floor levels and in the shape of the rooms, whose dimensions were modified in some cases to meet the educational needs.