The Entrance sign - photography is strictly controlled - not allowed with the Chapel

The Entrance sign – photography is strictly controlled – not allowed with the Chapel

The Scrovegni Chapel (Italian: ”Cappella degli Scrovegni”, also known as the Arena Chapel), is a church in Padua, Italy. It contains a fresco cycle by Giotto, completed about 1305, that is one of the most important masterpieces of Western art.

The church was dedicated to Santa Maria della Carità at the Feast of the Annunciation, 1303, and consecrated in 1305. Giotto’s fresco cycle focuses on the life of the Virgin Mary and celebrates her role in human salvation. A motet by Marchetto da Padova appears to have been composed for the dedication on 25 March 1305. The chapel is also known as the Arena Chapel because it was built on land purchased by Enrico Scrovegni that abutted the site of a Roman arena. The space was where an open-air procession and sacred representation of the Annunciation to the Virgin had been played out for a generation before the chapel was built.

The chapel was commissioned by Enrico Scrovegni, whose family fortune was made through banking. At this time charging excess interest when loaning money was considered to be usury, a sin so grave that it resulted in exclusion from the Christian sacraments, and many early bankers were concerned lest their trade jeopardised their souls. It has often been suggested that Enrico built the chapel in penitence for his father’s sin of usury and to obtain absolution for his own. Enrico’s father Reginaldo degli Scrovegni is one of the usurers encountered by Dante in the Seventh Circle of Hell. Recent studies have debated whether Enrico himself was involved in usurious practices and if the chapel was intended as restitution for his own sins. Some scholars tend to suggest that Giotto’s frescoes in the chapel reflect these concerns with usury and penitence, although the issue is controversial and others see a more secular set of concerns. Enrico’s tomb is in the apse, and he is also portrayed in the Last Judgment presenting a model of the chapel to the Virgin.

The chapel was attached to a new palace built by Enrico Scrovegni and was ostensibly a family oratory, but it also served some public functions related to the Feast of the Annunciation.

Giotto was an architect as well as an artist, and recent research has argued that he designed the chapel.

A rogue photo - not allowed!!!

A rogue photo – not allowed!!!

One of the most gripping paintings in the chapel is Giotto’s portrayal of the Kiss of Judas, the moment of betrayal that represents the first step on Jesus’ road to the Crucifixion.

The Scrovegni Chapel is open every day. Booking is essential (via the internet or in person) as they only accept 25 people every 15 minutes. You have a 15 minute video whilst your body temperature is cooled to the ‘correct’ temperature and you then enter the controlled atmosphere. It’s also worth lingering a bit longer in the adjoining Padua Museum and Art Gallery within the grounds of the old Roman arena – your Chapel ticket covers all of these entrances. For bookings, click here.


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