The surrounding area: a thousand and more years of history and art

01.PD-area Santa Caterina Patavium Nobilissima et litterarum studiis Florentissima Italiæ civitas, with the area of Santa Caterina in evidence (Royal Danish Libray - Digital collection. Licenza CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Santa Caterina, the church and the complex that takes its name from it, rises in the south-eastern part of the city, outside the oldest city walls; the site was included in a new wall circuit only in the 16th century, built by the Venetians after the defeat of the battle of Agnadello in 1509.

The area, inhabited since the most ancient phases of the Pataginian settlement, was then progressively included within the perimeter of the expanding city; a phenomenon to which corresponded, in the centuries of the Late Middle Ages, a progressive functional specialization (Zaggia 1999, pp. 85, 88).

Here, in fact, charitable institutions dedicated to hospitality and welfare services of various kinds, such as university colleges, came to be concentrated (for more details: Del Negro 2010): the Pratense, founded by Cardinal Pileo da Prata in 1390 in the district of the Saint; the Da Rio, established in the house of Nicolò Da Rio in the district of Pontecorvo in 1398, for artists' schoolchildren; and the Engleschi, established by legacy by Francesco Engleschi in 1446, in the district of Pontecorvo, for art or medicine students. Among them, one is mentioned in the sources right in the vicinity of Santa Caterina, wanted by Giacomo Arquà in 1390 "to help ten pupils from every nation except Padovans".

There were also the Ca' di Dio; Ca' Lando; the Hospital of San Francesco and the Fraglia della Carità; as well as the Conservatori of the Zitelle Gasparine and the Soccorso, the latter being an integral part, starting from the nineteenth century, of the story told so far.

In the next pages we will go into the events of some of these institutions, broadening our gaze to investigate the urban topography of the area where the Santa Caterina complex was built in the seventeenth century.