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The Ancient Courtyard

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Hospitium Bovis maintained its medieval appearance, but thanks to the construction of the Ancient Courtyard, Palazzo del Bo transformed into an elegant monument that redefined Padua.  In 1547, the construction of the Ancient Courtyard commenced under the guidance of architect Andrea Moroni, who had overseen the reconstruction of Basilica Santa Giustina and another building site throughout the city. It would take nearly forty years before the Ancient Courtyard took its final form at the end of the 1580s.

Once dominated by a medieval clock tower beaming above the elegant courtyard, the entirety of Palazzo Bo took on a new form. With open porticoes destined for academic conversations, the structure reflects the layout of a monastic cloister. A double row of columns reflects the gymnasiums and academies of the Greek world.  A double loggia holds a lower Doric-type column and the upper one of the Ionic type, with decorative elements linked to the world of science and the arts.

Like many other rooms and buildings, the Ancient courtyard holds dozens of coats of arms, representing the students, their families and those who held academic positions. As they reached the highest institutional positions in the university hierarchy, i.e. the rectors, vicar-mayors and the councillors of the respective nationes (students group according to their geographical origins). In 1688, the Republic of Venice (Serenissima) prohibited the creation of new coats of arms to prevent the growing exhibitionism of the students from leading to the destruction of previous testimonies.

At the east corner of the courtyard, located at the foot of the Scalone Cornaro, a statue portrays the first woman in the world to receive a Doctor of Philosophy degree, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia. Brilliant and highly cultured of Venetian origins, Elena graduated on 25 June 1678, forever linking the strong meaning of her title to the University of Padua.