«Common to the entire University and observed by the Studio are three feasts: St. Luke, St. Catherine and St. Thomas Aquinas. [...] Although Saint Catherine is venerated as the patron saint of all those who dedicate themselves to their studies, nevertheless this virgin and martyr saint is a very special protector of the University of Law students[…]»
(Tomasini 1654, pp. 214-215, trad. Gallo 1999, pp. 68-69)
The first attestation of the link between the church of Santa Caterina and the University of Jurists dates back to 1377, when it was established that on the feast day of the saint, November 25th, for each year, students and professors held a solemn procession to the religious building, chosen among the many of Padova precisely because of its title: Caterina was, in fact, the patron saint of students and intellectuals, as is still testified by her figure imprinted on the seal of the University of Padova.
It was above all from the 17th century that the university "presence" in Santa Caterina increased: from that moment on, jurists began to take an active interest in the conditions of the church and had an altar inside, first the side altar dedicated to the saint, then the high altar, from 1677, which they had reworked and decorated with the painting by M.A. Bonaccorsi, depicting the Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine. On the crowning of the gable of the altar are placed three student coats of arms, respectively, of the two councillors at the construction of the altar and of the deputy councillor, in office at the time of completion of the work. Other smaller coats of arms, 20 in number, were to be found in the lateral intercolumns, but were replaced in the nineteenth century (1883) with a fake marble marquetry that can still be seen today (Benucci 2007, pp. 317-336).
The coat of arms in the centre, which is in black and red with three roses, belongs to Christian Langermann from Hamburg, Councillor of the German Nation and Deputy Mayor of the University since 20 July 1696. On the left is the insignia of the Swiss councillor Giovanni Stefano Ferin de Pelizora, characterized by a crowned eagle with its wings outstretched and flanked by two lilies; on the right is that of councillor Francesco Fontana (of Vicenza family but born in Split), with a gushing fountain consisting of three overlapping basins and a spring on a terrace.
The jurists also ordered a common burial in the church for schoolchildren who had died far from their homeland or in poor economic conditions (Gallo 1999, p. 68): it was built in 1652 and shortly afterwards decorated with some images of saints, perhaps by the painter Matteo Bissoni (Mancini 1999, p. 123).
The coat of arms is in the centre of the tomb slab of the Jurists' sepulchre. It shows, on the left, the Blessing Christ, which is the ancient sign of the University of Jurists, on the right two grass snakes facing each other on six bands, a weapon of the Vicenza Bissaro family, to which the above-mentioned Jacopo Bissaro belonged. The presence of his coat of arms next to that of the University of Jurists resides in the fact that the Bissaro was pro-rector at the time of the foundation of the tomb in Santa Caterina (Benucci 2007, pp. 203-211).
Francis Povey, of English origin, is remembered as superintendent for the realization of the university sepulchre at S. Caterina on 16th March 1652: his coat of arms, by now completely illegible, has a double band accompanied by six roses. In 1652, Tommaso Trappa from Brescia was also superintendent: his coat of arms, which is also difficult to read, has a vine branch placed in a band and intertwined with two bunches of grapes. This explains the presence of their coats fo arms on the tomb slab of the Jurists Francis Povey (Benucci 2007, pp. 211-216).