- City of northeastern Italy, 22 miles (35 kilometers) west of Venice. Padua was an important center for communications and travel in the Po river valley. Although the flourishing Roman municipality declined in the early Middle Ages, the city became one of Italy's lead-ing self-governing communes between the 11th and the early 14th century. It was constantly exposed to military and political pressure from ambitious neighboring nobles. It fell under the control of Ezzelino da Romano between 1237 and 1256 but recovered its auton-omy after his death. Internal conflicts among the citizens encouraged outsiders to intervene. Although Padua resisted the efforts of the Em-peror Henry VII and his ally Can Grande della Scala, lord of Verona, to establish control, the nearby Carrara lords insinuated themselves as commanders of the city's military forces and by the 1320s had become signori (lords) of the city. Their rule lasted until 1405, when the re-public of Venice established a control that lasted until 1797.In the late 13th and early 14th centuries, Padua was home to two of the earliest Italian humanists, Lovato dei Lovati and Albertino Mussato. It was the location of major works of art by Giotto, Do-natello, Andrea Mantegna, and Titian.Although Padua was a significant commercial power, its main im-portance was as the seat one of the two greatest Italian universities. In 1222 a large group of students and teachers from the oldest Italian uni-versity, Bologna, migrated to Padua after a quarrel with the city of Bologna. The university developed gradually during the late 13th and 14th centuries. In 1399 it divided into two separate institutions, a uni-versity of civil and canon law and a university of arts and medicine (including not only medical studies but also natural sciences, philoso-phy, and humanities, and later adding theology). This twofold division persisted until the 19th century. The conquest of the city by the Vene-tians might have threatened the welfare of an institution controlled by the local government, but the Venetians promised to guard the univer-sity's welfare. Under Venetian rule, especially in the 15th and 16th centuries, Padua became the best university in Italy. The Venetian government limited the right of Padua's administration to fill the fac-ulty with native sons and deliberately recruited outstanding professors from other institutions at high salaries. Especially between the hiring of the philosopher Pietro Pomponazzi in 1488 and the departure of the mathematician and astronomer Galileo Galilei in 1610, Padua led the rest of Europe in several fields, especially in medicine and natural philosophy. In 1540 the medical faculty began the practice of clinical medicine, introducing students to actual medical practice at the bed-sides of sick persons. In 1545 Venice authorized a botanical garden (especially useful for pharmacology) which survives, the oldest uni-versity botanical garden in Europe.A clear sign of the university's greatness is the quality of its graduates, including the political philosophers Paolo Giovio and Francesco Guicciardini; the humanists Francesco Filelfo, Gio-vanni Pico della Mirandola, and Pier Paolo Vergerio; and the physicians and philosopher-scientists Ulisse Aldrovandi, Giro-lamo Cardano, Gabriele Falloppio, Girolamo Fracastoro, Francesco Patrizi, and Bernardino Telesio. Foreign scholars also flocked to Padua, including the Germans Nicholas of Cusa and Willibald Pirckheimer; Hungary's greatest humanist, Janus Pan-nonius; and a brilliant galaxy of English scholars, including John Colet, William Harvey, Thomas Linacre, and Reginald Pole.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.