The twentieth century: from the convent boarding school to the university

The first half of the 20th century

Between the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century some changes occurred to modify the structure of the Pii Conservatori. In the first place, the institutes - initially qualified as "Work of youth redemption" - progressively attenuated this character to become simple boarding schools, open to the reception of young students and aiming at their education throughout elementary school rather than their "moral recovery"..

Bishop Luigi Pelizzo Bishop Luigi Pellizzo (from Dizionario biografico dei friulani)

Secondly, during the episcopate of Monsignor Luigi Pellizzo (1906-1923) the community of the Tertiary Collegial Tertiaries of De Foretti, now reduced to a few elements, was incorporated into the congregation of nuns founded in 1828 by Elisabetta Vendramini under the name of . They came to control the Pii Conservatori between November the 3rd 1910, when five of them took over the direction and responsibility of the Soccorso (Relief) Section, and September the 9th, 1911, when their action was extended also to Santa Caterina, and they remained there for most of the 20th century, until their dissolution in August 1985.
Finally, Msgr. Pellizzo also dealt with the administrative arrangement of the institutes, with the definition of their Statute, which, while maintaining their nature as ecclesiastical bodies, regulated their relations with the civil authorities. This was approved by Royal Decree on September 6, 1914 and established that the Board of Directors of the Pii Conservatori should be formed by:

  • a representative of the municipality
  • a representative of the province
  • two representatives of the bishop
  • a president, delegate priest of the bishop.

In spite of the trauma caused by the First World War, in the 1920s the Pii Conservatori managed to maintain their properties and get a good income from them, so much so that in 1927 they were able to give hospitality and education to 130 young people, 50 housed in the Soccorso and 80 in Santa Caterina: of these, those of Santa Caterina attended the internal elementary school, kindergarten and work school; those of the Soccorso (older in age) were instead engaged in tailoring and embroidery school, knitting, etc. ... a vocational training alternating with a few hours of study.(Tomiet 1994, p. 13).

Recreation time of the elementary school students Recreation time of the elementary school students (from Un'opera di redenzione, 1931)

The older students work outdoors The older students work outdoors (from Un'opera di redenzione, 1931)

At the end of the third decade of the twentieth century, two further innovations also intervened in the history of the institutions:

  • in 1926, with Royal Decree of December the 5th, the former Istituto Zitelle was annexed to them and from that moment their name was changed to Pii Conservatori Santa Caterina, Soccorso e Gasparini;
  • in 1927 the Casa del Dopo-Collegio was established in a house adjacent to the Soccorso and intended to accommodate 15 adults who, after the period of the boarding school, not being able to be returned to their parents or entrusted to some other family, were hosted there after the fixed term waiting for stable employment.

The second half of the 20th century: IRPEA and the University

The life of the Pii Conservatori continued in this way for most of the twentieth century: the Elisabettine Sisters constituted a large educational community that lived inside the institute, in a reserved space compared to the other rooms located in the large building, where the daily activities of the young boarding school guests took place.

In the years between 1975 and 1983, also in the wake of the radical reform of health and social care implemented by the Italian state, a radical rethinking of the structure of the Pii Conservatori began, with an attempt to decentralize their educational-assistance service. Progressively, the large complex of Santa Caterina was abandoned by its inhabitants, who formed family-groups of minors outside the structure: the Luciana group in Via C. Moro, of short duration, followed by the Elisabetta (not far from Santa Caterina) and Primavera communities.

IFollowing this, and after the decree of the Veneto Region of April 24, 1985, with which the foundation of IRPEA (Istituti Riuniti Padovani di Educazione e Assistenza) was declared, by the merger of the Santa Caterina, Soccorso, Gasparini Conservatori with those of Vanzo and Santa Rosa and the Camerini-Rossi, in August of the same year the community of Elisabettine Sisters of Santa Caterina was dissolved in order to maintain the only community physiognomy of the two family-groups..

The large building remained unused until the end of the 1990s when, following restoration and adaptation of the spaces, it was granted to the university, which made it the seat of the Department and Library of Statistical Sciences.


[This last paragraph was elaborated on the basis of the text by Lenarduzzi, De Costanzo, 2002].