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Published: August 31st 2015
PADUA Just a stopover we thought.
A place west of Venice – just looking for a camp for a night. Sounds like a back water. Let’s get in – rest – re water and get going.
Finding a camp was not so hard. Got one right in what seems like the middle of town. Although it’s a spread out town - how would you know with these masters of chaos, random and pandemonium where the city boundaries are, let alone the city centre.
So we park up and notice a lot of churches and historic looking stuff.
Across from where we park for the night is a big grassed piazza with a moat around it. It’s about 150m in diameter and roughly circular. Around the perimeter are statues of every mythological hero known to man – hundreds of them.
Before long the church bells start ringing. There is a big cathedral at one end of the piazza. We go in and discover it’s the Basilica di Saint Guistina. After dropping the jaw as we stroll through the giant church admiring the religious artefacts around the 14 side altars as well as 2 chapels on each side
of the enormous main altar. It’s an enormous church. My guess is the main body of the church is about 220meters long by say 70m wide.. So here we are wandering around when we go off to one of the side cross pieces and get blown over by what we see.
Tucked off to one side is the Oratory of St Prosdocimo. It is the remains of a church built by Opilio in honour of St Giustina around the end of the 5th
century. The art on the ceilings and walls is even more jaw dropping than that in the main Basicilica.
Eventually we make it back to the street and notice quite a few things.
First is the streets radiate out from the central piazza ( with the big grassy park and the stone/concrete surrounds). So we wander up one of these spoke like streets. Its amazingly clean and well maintained. Very old looking and more or less car traffic free. Of course this is consistent with old towns in Europe. But it’s a town in which people live work and play. So we see ordinary folk doing ordinary stuff. Side streets
are quite narrow and no street is straight for more than 20 or so meters. All the streets curve so as to draw the eye further along and invite us to view what’s on offer around the curve in some sort of artistic tease.
We follow a street and presently come to a canal. A canal . So far inland. Yes Padva has canals too. Not as many as the nearby coastal city of Venezia. But real live canals with flowing water etc. but no gondolas.
A few times as we crossed some of the main streets I had noticed a strange rail track. Just one track. So get a load of this. It’s a tramway system with only one track. So after a bit along comes a tram sitting on the one track. The secret is out – the tram runs on rubber tyres like a bus with a central rail bogey running on the single track. Presumably the single rail track delivers power and steers the tram. Which gets back to the central question about trams and public transport. Some public like trams because even the dumbest can understand a tram route.
There simply are not many routes. So here the city fathers of Padva decided to slash the infrastructure cost by putting in only one instead of two tram tracks, but still had to put in a mono- tram to appease the great unwashed- with that tram system being part of a bus based public transport system - run principally by buses ( those things that can go in various and variable routes, can detour around obstacles, and need only roads , not special infrastructure) .
But wait – there is more
St Anthony’s of Padua could easily fill an encyclopaedia.
We could have easily filled the camera’s storage with amazing pictures – But there were signs denying photography.
But what I can record here is that I can not recall much of the detail of St Peter’s in Roma when we went there in 1974 – but the general impression was of overwhelming religious artwork. Well walking into St Anthony’s in Padua reminded me of that almost over the top artwork in an overly ornate church.
When we dropped by on a Sunday arvo Mass was in progress. So we stayed. If you
happen to drop in then Mass will probably be being celebrated too. Why? Because Masses are almost continuous. Well think of that in a church anywhere. If Mass was on the hour most hours then he church would be nearly empty most of the time. Well, at St Anthony’s there were congregations of say 300+ during our visit.
So St Anthony has a pretty big following.
After attending Mass the faithful queue up to visit his tomb. Behind the enormous main altar area there is a gold plated chapel full of gold ornaments and proclaiming relics of St Anthony.
So Why did this guy from Portugal get a big following?
Well he was big into proclaiming the simple word and into confession/ penitence.
He came to the Padua area to combat the heretics of the day and proclaim the good word. When no one would listen to him, Anthony started practising his preaching to the fish and the fish came flocking and were jumping out of the water.
He was canonised a saint when miracles were reported. There are many stories. But one I like is the story about how
a young boy confesses in the confessional that he had kicked his mother. Well Anthony said in the course of discussion that a boy who would kick his mother should have his foot cut off. Well the boy took it literally and cut his foot off with an axe. Long story short is that his mother had a few Italian words to say to old Anthony – Anthony prayed in overdrive- more or less directly with Big Boss Numero Uno and the boy’s foot was miraculously attached to his leg.
So Anthony really was a “legend” and people flock to St Anthony’s in Padua.
We were lucky to be able to camp within walking distance.
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