Santa Sofia Church (Padua)

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Santa Sofia
Basic information
Location Italy
Affiliation Roman Catholic
Rite Roman Catholic, Western rite
District Padua
Architectural description
Architectural type Church
Architectural style Romanesque facade
Groundbreaking 10th Century
Completed 1127

Santa Sofia in Padua is the oldest church structure in the city. It was built in the 10th century on the site of a presumed Mithraeum. A grant was made to bishop Sinibaldo of this church in 1123, which had already been in construction. The Romanesque facade was constructed from 1106 to 1127, and is now somewhat inclined to subsidence of the soil. The interior is now relatively sparse.


Tradition is that the church was founded by St. Prosdocimus on the ruins of a temple dedicated to Apollo. The first document in which is mentioned the church of Santa Sofia and dated February 19, 1123: the bishop of Padua Sinibaldo intervened to urge the completion work of the church, work builders that might for decades, at least from 1109, in a yard struck by major disasters such as the earthquake of 1117.[1]

There are numerous archaeological finds (dated between the second and fourth centuries). Some records date the apse to the Carolingian age. Much of this is based on the crypt, which is within 50 years as the nave of the Basilica of San Marco, using radiocarbon methods[1]

The apse was the first phase of the construction, sometime in the ninth century. Primary construction was between 1070 and 1080. This phase ended in 1106. The second phase opened in 1117 and ended in about 1170. The structure underwent embellishment near the end of the fourteenth century to meet the liturgical reforms approved by the Council of Trent.[1] The seventeen-year-old Andrea Mantegna performs his first independent work, an altarpiece depicting the Madonna with Child in conversation with saints. It was scattered in the seventeenth century was dated 1448[1]

Initially operated by Augustinians monks, Benedictine nuns replace them by 1517. In the sixteenth century it was a parish church. It became a provostry, which depended the church of San Gaetano, the church of Paolotti, Matthias Church and the church of San Biagio. As a result of the Napoleonic laws the nuns were removed (1806-1810), the convent became state ownership.[1]

Between 1951 and 1958, the structure has undergone major restoration work with intent to restore primitive appearance of the church. With these works is lost most of the heritage Mannerist and Baroque kept in the factory. Recently was again subject to important conservation work and cleaning the walls[1]

The church has become a parish church governed by secular clergy of the diocese of Padua. Until 1957, the church had the incorruptible bodies of the Blessed Beatrice I Este (from 1578) and of the blessed Elena Enselmini, this last joint from the church of the Blessed Elena in 1810[1]


Italy, Veneto, Padua, church of Santa Sofia, apse (particular)

The church is oriented to the east (apse) to west (front). The construction is characterized by the careful use of stone and brick, which makes up a large part of the building.[1]

The front and the sides The upper part of the facade has fallen toward the north, because of a failure of the foundation took place around the time of construction. Driven by niches, blind arcades and hanging arches, it is linked perhaps to the construction site of Torcello and is dated to the first half of the twelfth century. Within certain niches, on the north, there are visible fragments of frescoes of the fourteenth century. The mullioned window at the top is from the twentieth-century restoration while the large oculus is fourteenth century, the result of Bishop Stephen from Carrara to adorn the structure. Along the aisles, simple and unadorned openings from various periods: single and double windows of Romanesque, Gothic and an oculi windows from the sixteenth. The Palladian windows open in the seventeenth century were buffered in the nineteenth century.[1]

Apse The oldest part is the apse; with a blind arches and a gallery, with a large central niche (reconstructed in 1852). The imposing building, which some even date back to the tenth century or even the seventh (Peter Wild), seems to evoke the tradition of Ottonian and Byzantine, with a sophisticated chromatic use of stone and brick. Some scholars have seen in part of a round unfinished, other similarities with the construction of Santa Maria and Donato in Murano.[1]

Bell Tower The Romanesque bell tower Gothic, dated 1296, stands on one of the times of the great apse. In the cell, concert bells to Verona.[1]


Interior of the church of Santa Sofia in Padua.

The impressive interior is the result of major restoration in the 1950s. It returned the building to a severe appearance and with harmonious embellishments previously distorted by the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The pillars and columns support the many arches that lead to the apse. The plastered roof vaults date from the late fourteenth century renovation of Bishop Stephen from Carrara. The aisles end in a sort of ambulatory, interrupted by the large niche at the top of the apse, where the tabernacle was placed.[1]

The columns and capitals alternate with pillars and stone decorations came from a Roman and Byzantine landfill. Along the walls are thirteenth and fourteenth-century frescoes, from the school of Giotto.[1] Entering on the left there is a small lapidary. It follows the altar of the Blessed Beatrice D'Este. The altar below shows a shovel with St. Francis of Paola and her miracles, from the church of the Vincentians. Opposite, on the left aisle, altar with very valuable Pietà of Egidio from Wiener Neustadt on the vaults are continuing with Gothic frescoes. Then, holy water font made from an old imperial capital unfinished.[1]

The complex apse is surrounded by niches-seat converging to central niche that bears, on the arch, a fourteenth-century fresco with the Virgin Enthroned with Saints. Hanging over the basin, a fifteenth-century wooden crucifix. Under the presbytery lies the crypt, unfinished. On the opposite there is the tomb of Ludovico Cortusio.[1]



  • Giovambattista Rossetti, description of paintings, sculptures, and architecture of Padova in Padua MDCCLXXX Printing Seminary
  • Giannantonio Moschini, Guide for the city of Padua, Atesa publishing
  • AA.VV., Padua basilicas and churches, Blacks Pozza Editore, Vicenza 1975
  • Joseph Toff, The streets of Padua, and Newton Compton Editori, Rome 1999, ISBN 9788882890247
  • Joseph Toff, hundred churches Padua disappeared, Editorial Program
  • AA.VV., Padua, Medoacus



Coordinates: 45°24′26″N 11°53′05″E / 45.4073°N 11.8848°E / 45.4073; 11.8848