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Decision 44 COM 8B.20
‘Padova Urbs picta’, Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel and Padua’s fourteenth-century fresco cycles (Italy)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC/21/44.COM/8B and WHC/21/44.COM/INF.8B1,
  2. InscribesPadova Urbs picta’, Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel and Padua’s fourteenth-century fresco cycles, Italy, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criterion (ii);
  3. Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

    Brief synthesis

    The fresco cycles housed in eight complexes of buildings within the old city centre of Padua illustrate how, over the course of the 14th century, different artists, starting with Giotto, introduced important stylistic developments in the history of art. The eight building complexes are grouped into four component parts: Scrovegni and Eremitani (part 1); Palazzo della Ragione, Carraresi Palace, Baptistery and associated Piazzas (part 2); Complex of Buildings associated with the Basilica of St. Anthony (part 3); and San Michele (part 4). The artists who played a leading role in the creation of the fresco cycles were Giotto, Guariento di Arpo, Giusto de’ Menabuoi, Altichiero da Zevio, Jacopo Avanzi and Jacopo da Verona. Working for illustrious local families, the clergy, the city commune or the Carraresi family, they would – within buildings both public and private, religious and secular – produce fresco cycles that gave birth to a new image of the city.

    Whilst painted by different artists for different types of patron within buildings of varying function, the Padua fresco cycles maintain a unity of style and content. Within the artistic narrative that unfolds in this sequence of frescoes, the different cycles reveal both diversity and mutual coherence.

    The property illustrates an entirely new way of depicting allegorical narratives in spatial perspectives influenced by advances in the science of optics and a new capacity in capturing human figures, including individual features displaying feelings and emotions. Innovation in the depiction of pictorial space involved explorations of the possibilities of perspective and trompe-l’oeil effects. The innovation in the depiction of states of feeling is based on a heightened interest in the realistic portrayal of human emotions and the integration of the new role of commissioning patron as the patrons begin to appear in the scenes depicted, and ultimately even take the place of figures participating in the biblical narrative. In effect, the works illustrate the adaptation of sacred art to serve the secular celebration of the prestige and power of the ruling powers and associated noble families.

    Criterion (ii): The Padua fresco cycles illustrate the important interchange of ideas which existed between leading figures in the worlds of science, literature and the visual arts in the pre-humanist climate of Padua in the early 14th century. New exchanges of ideas also occurred between clients commissioning works and the artists from other Italian cities that had been called to Padua to collaborate on the various fresco cycles inspired by scientific and astrological allegories or ideas on sacred history gleaned from contemporary intellectuals and scholars. The artists showed great skill in giving these ideas visual form and their technical abilities allowed the Padua fresco cycles not only to become a model for others but also to prove remarkably resistant to the passage of time. The group of artists striving for innovation who gathered within Padua at the same time fostered an exchange of ideas and know-how which led to a new style in fresco illustration. This new fresco style not only influenced Padua throughout the 14th century but formed the inspirational basis for centuries of fresco work in the Italian Renaissance and beyond. With this veritable rebirth of a pictorial technique, Padua supplied a new way of both seeing and depicting the world, heralding the advent of Renaissance perspective. The innovations mark a new era in the history of art, producing an irreversible change in direction.


    The four component parts comprise eight complexes of buildings in the centre of Padua – some publicly, some privately owned, some secular, some religious – which present an overall shared approach in terms of techniques, themes, dating and style, and bear witness to new programmes of narrative and figurative choices in fresco painting. They illustrate the complete range of the various aspects of innovation in Italian frescoes in the 14th century.

    The institutional bodies (Padua City Council, the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities, the University of Padua) that own the different sites have promoted research, maintenance and restoration work necessary to maintain the various fresco cycles in a good state of conservation. Such work means that each of the single parts can still be read and understood, both individually and in relation to each other.


    The attributes of the property illustrate authenticity in material, design, in particular workmanship, setting and to a certain extent spirit and feeling in relation to the religious concepts they evoke. The authenticity is further expressed in the inseparable bond between the frescoes and the interior architectural spaces they are part of as well as the architectural construction of the historic buildings. All components retain authentic evidence of the fresco cycles, the material support on which the frescoes are painted, the plaster surfaces, the pigments and binding agents used in fresco work, and the paints themselves. Although fragments of these frescoes have in the past suffered localized detachments, for example in Scrovegni Chapel, the Cathedral Baptistery, or Carraresi Chapel, these fragments were all replaced in their original positions during past conservation treatments.

    The Padua fresco cycles are still fully legible, and the iconography used within them can be identified as authentic works of known 14th century artists. All frescoes are still in their original locations, which means the very place in and for which they were painted. The overall context within which they exist – that is, the area containing the buildings which house the different cycles – is still that which was the heart of the city enclosed within the old city walls and now coincides with the centre of the historic city.

    Protection and management requirements

    All of the buildings and complexes of buildings which house the frescoes in the property are under the strictest protective measures laid down by Italian law (listed buildings), the main expression of which is the law decree 22/01/2004 n. 42, known as the Codice dei Beni Culturali e del Paesaggio (Code for the Cultural Heritage and Landscape). There are further protective measures in the instruments for territorial administration that exist at both regional, provincial and city level, all guaranteeing the protection and conservation of the buildings and their surroundings. The buffer zone is bound by the perimeter of Padua’s old city centre, an area that comes under special protective measures laid down in Padua City Council’s “Works Ordinance”.

    An overall management system has been introduced, establishing close coordination between the different bodies that own the complexes of buildings which house the fresco cycles. Thus, from independent management by four different bodies, a model of co-governance has been established, in which the City Council presides over a Committee whose members represent those bodies as well as representatives of the Regional Government of the Veneto, the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities, the University of Padua (present as scientific consultants) and the Orto Botanico. The overall coordination of the partners is facilitated by the Council’s Cultural Affairs Department, through a specially-created agency, called the World Heritage Office, which acts as a secretariat to the management group. A Memorandum of Understanding for the joint implementation of a management plan has been signed. The management plan is under elaboration based on a first draft document submitted.

  4. Recommends that the State Party give consideration to the following:
    1. Augmenting the management plan to include concrete strategic objectives and timeframes, which allow for the assessment of its progress in implementation and to include missing subject areas such as visitor management as well as risk preparedness and disaster management,
    2. Consistently monitoring relative humidity in all component parts, including spaces where visitors are not currently expected to cause negative impacts, and augment the monitoring system to ensure monitoring of all prevalent risk factors based on measurable or qualitative indicators,
    3. Installing fire detectors also in the church-owned properties and ensure that fire-fighting installations are tailored to cause least possible negative impacts in the event of use,
    4. Clearly communicating in the interpretation of the component part of Palazzo della Ragione that the upper three bands of fresco cycles reflect 15th century reconstructions aimed at recreating the content of the earlier Giotto frescoes, which were lost due to fire in 1420 and were painted by Niccolò Miretto, Stefano da Ferrara and Antonio di Pietro;
  5. Decides that the name of the property be changed to “Padua’s fourteenth-century fresco cycles”.
Decision Code
44 COM 8B.20
Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
States Parties 1
Decisions adopted at the 44th extended session of the World Heritage Committee
Context of Decision