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Path of Faith

(Abbey of Saint Stephen’s, Due Carrare – Oratory of Beata Vergine Maria Annunciata, Pontemanco – Church of Saint Biagio, Cornegliana – Small temple dedicate to Sant’ Urbano,  Mezzavia – Abbey of Praglia – Villa Vescovi, Luvigliano – Hermitage of Mount Rua, Torreglia – Church of Santa Maria Assunta, Galzignano – Church of Pigozzo, Due Carrare)

The monasteries, and in particular the Benedictine ones, played a fundamental role in the first centuries of the Middle Ages to recover those devastations brought by the barbarian invasions. They, in fact, were the “constructive” force of a new civilization which, organized on the motto of “ora et labora”, laid the foundations of modern society. The Benedictines are in fact responsible for the first reclamations in Padua: exemplary is the experience of the monks of Santa Giustina in the territories of the Saccisica and, later, the organization and cultivation of the land recovered from the waters. The availability of land and work attracted hosts of settlers who together with their families began to settle around the walls of the monasteries. These realities, therefore, became the centre of a small self-sufficient economic world, around which lay society came to organize itself with relations regulated by laws and an economy that, in addition to subsistence, allowed the sale of production surpluses and thus the flourishing of trade. In this regard, the role played by the Abbey of Santa Maria di Praglia, founded in the 11th century as the cornerstone of the Benedictine agricultural colonization throughout the west territory of Padua. Also at the monastery of Santo Stefano of Due Carrare can be recognized the role of center of the organization of the territory, especially in the period of the Da Carrara (almost the whole fourteenth century), who chose it as family mausoleum, as well as the church of San Biagio in nearby Cornegliana, for which a document of 1297 attests that it was one of the domains of the monastery of Santa Giustina of Padua and among the benefits there were rents pertaining to 320 fields, among the largest for the era.

Another centre linked to the “government” of the territory is definitely Villa Vescovi in Luvigliano of Torreglia. In this case it is not a sacred building, but a real villa, in which the concept of “government” should be translated into more cultural or in any case more humanistic. In fact, among the founding intentions that led to the realization of the sumptuous residence, in the early 16th century, there were those of Cardinal Francesco Pisani who here identified: “the place for an intellectual circle gathered around the value of the landscape and its role as an incentive to high reflections and thoughts, indispensable elements for good governance”. But alongside these centers of organization and culture, the territory also preserves the places of popular faith, such as the Oratory of the Beata Vergine Maria Annunciata that, although owned by the noble Pasqualigo, was open and accessible to the whole community of Pontemanco, or the Church of Santa Maria Assunta in Galzignano, which during the 15th century from a small oratory became the center of devotion of the whole village of Euganeo, or the Church of the Pigozzo. There are also places of isolation and prayer, where the peace of the Euganians becomes almost mystical, as in the case of the Hermitage of Mount Rua. Alongside the historical importance that these sites have covered over the centuries, is accompanied by the artistic value that still preserve, works of art that bear the signature of important authors such as Lambert Sustris and Antonio Bonazza, or the signature of the architecture itself as in the case of the Falconetto, by Giulio Romano or Andrea della Valle at Villa Vescovi in Luvigliano.

Road map

The route starts from the plain countryside of Due Carrare, but it climbs also along the slopes of the nearby Euganean Hills and therefore a little effort should be taken into account before leaving. We start from the Abbey of Santo Stefano a Due Carrare, to take the SP17 in the direction of the town center and once reached via Roma we will turn right, then we will parade in front of the town hall, holding it on the left, and after a few meters, when we reach a intersection, we will turn right again to take the SP9 that will lead us to Pontemanco. When we reach the small village we will find on the right via Pontemanco that will lead us to the center where is the Oratory of the Beata Vergine Maria Annunciata. From the village we will exit again on via Pontemanco, just proceed straight and turn left at the height of via Biancolino and, once again reached the SP9, we will cross a roundabout which we will proceed straight to the fork with Via Figaroli and Via Da Rio. We will take the latter which will allow us to reach, after a few kilometers, the centre of Cornegliana and the church entitled to San Biagio. From here we start a long transfer pedal, with which we will leave the plain to reach the flanks of the Euganean Hills. In short, the challenging part begins, as the next stop will be the Abbey of Praglia, which is about 16 kilometers from here. The distance, however, does not frighten: the destination will pay for every effort. Take, therefore, via Palazzina and walk it until you cross via Cuccara, which you will find on the right. We proceed on this new and quiet street, which crosses the countryside, up to the town of Terradura. From here, taking advantage of the cycle path, we will cover a section of the SP30, keeping on the horizon the blue shapes of the Euganean Hills, until we reach Mezzavia, where we will find the temple dedicated to Sant'Urbano. After crossing the bridge and the SS16 we will proceed straight in the direction of Montegrotto on Via Mezzavia, also equipped with a cycle path. Once you reach a intersection with roundabout, we will turn right on via Campagna Bassa. We will take a long stretch, until we reach a roundabout where we will take via Scavi (it is the one with the underpass) and immediately another roundabout, where we will take the first right that is via Marza. At a new roundabout we turn left on via Siesalunga, then turn right on via Virgilio and after a few meters we turn left again on the SS250. After a few meters we will meet on the right via S. Daniele and take it to continue on via Montegrotto in the direction of Abano Terme. Arrived at a roundabout via Montegrotto will be reduced to a single roadway, we continue to cover it until we meet again via S. Daniele. Not being able to proceed straight we turn left, on this new road flanked by a comfortable bike path. The road continues completely straight up to the intersection with the SP25, which we take. Practically we are at the foot of the Euganean Hills and begins the stretch that will take us to the Abbey of Praglia. We continue always on the tortuous SP25 that begins to show the hilly landscape and some slight slope. Once at the intersection we will find two indications: for Abano and for Tramonte, we will follow this last one, always remaining on the SP25, which will have as its name Via Monteortone. At a certain point on the right we will find a fork with the indications for Praglia (3km) and Teolo (13km), we will follow these indications and practically we will be almost to our stage. After the last stretch of the SP25 we will find ourselves in the locality La Croce, where we will turn left on the on the SP60. We will begin to see on the left the monastery of Praglia and we will reach it from Via Abbazia, that we will meet on the left. Now to head towards Villa Vescovi: as soon as we leave the Via dell’ Abbazia we take the road on the left, it is only possible to ride bicycles, it will emerge on Via Malterreno, where we will resume the road in asphalt that will take us to Luvigliano. Once at the restaurant Da Lorenzo, we will turn left onto SP98, that we will the smaller road, on the right, leading to Villa Vescovi. From here we move to the last destinations of the route, the hermitage of Monte Rua and the Church of Santa Maria Assunta Galzignano, taking the SP98 that leads to Torreglia and from here the SP25 that arrives to Galzignano Terme. On this last road, a few kilometers, we will find on the right the intersection of via Guido Povoleri that leads to via Monte Rua and the homonymous Hermitage. Proceeding straight on the SP25, instead, we will meet the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, which is located right on the hill that dominates the last bends of the road that comes from Torreglia, in a place called Pianzio. Always along the SP25, we will take the road towards Due Carrare, following the indications for Battaglia Terme. It is the last kilometers: we will come to Viale degli Alpini and then we will take the arginal summit of Battaglia canal that passes right in front of the Catajo. We continue our route taking the bridge that is in front of the large door of Villa Obizzi, on the right we will find the small outline of the church of Pigozzo, but to return to Due Carrare we should turn left on the SS16 and, a few hundred meters, turn right on Via Minacana (SP9), which leads to the large roundabout that marks the beginning of the city center. Here we will turn right again to take the SP17e to reach, after a few hundred meters, the Abbey of Santo Stefano from where we started.

Site sheets of interest touched by the route:

The Abbey of Saint Stephen’s – Due Carrare
The Abbey of Santo Stefano, a jewel erected in Due Carrare adjacent to an early medieval oratory, is one of the oldest monasteries in the province of Padua. It is precisely to this place that part of the history of the Da Carrara dynasty is linked, since a document of 1027 attests that on that date a donation was made by Litolfo, the first known member of the family, for the construction of the monastery. The sacred walls became later also the mausoleum of the Da Carrara and still a marble ark on the northern wall of the abbey church preserves the remains of Marsilio, the second lord of Padua who ruled from 1324 to 1328. Over time the abbey experienced various troubles, such as the looting perpetrated in 1405 by the Venetians, after the extinction of the Carrara dynasty, and even the partial demolition of the abbey complex in the second half of the 18th century. Of that important ancient past only the bell tower, the ancient cemetery, the rectory, the house of the sacristan, a real well of Istria and, obviously, the church that represents one of the few testimonies of Romanesque architecture of the territory. The interior of the latter, at the foot of the presbytery, preserves three large mosaic laces dating back to the X-XI century, with white and black tiles, with phyto and zoomorphic figures. Significant, on the artistic level the low polychrome ‘terracotta (baked clay) relief that can be seen in a niche to the left of the altar. This work is by Andrea Briosco, known as Riccio, and represents Christ in piety between the Virgin and Saint Giovanni. The work dates back to the end of the ‘400 and has the particularity of not being a single block, but the three figures are detachable. Another element of originality is the bell tower: built two centuries after the refoundation of the whole complex wanted by Carrara, still retains, in the north wall, the traces of the original window system with single-double arched - trifora window (later fenced) and the ceramic basins on the ‘arcatelle’ (small arches) which make it a unique on the Venetian mainland.

The Oratory of Beata Vergine Maria Annunciata – Pontemanco
On the little square of Pontemanco there is the Oratory of Beata Vergine Maria Annunciata. In a pastoral visit in 1595 the property was attributed to the noble Pasqualigo, almost a century later, always from a pastoral visit, it is clear that the small church was also open to the public. The interior is still present today with its rich baroque decorative setup, exceptionally intact, consisting of frescoes on the walls, painted wooden ceiling, stalls along the entire internal perimeter, Via Crucis, marble altar with shovel and two beautiful marble busts. The walls are covered by a band painted with patterns of pretense architecture, trompe l’oeil: in particular, a series of medallions interspersed with pilasters of red marble and vegetal festoons suspended to ‘protomi leonine’ (a decorative element representing lions’ heads)  are seen to support the notched frame of the wooden ceiling. Behind short balustrades there are two windows: one closed, the other just opened a little bit. From a third window, protected by a wooden grating, a character appears wih a rosary crown in his hand.  The highest quality pieces are undoubtedly the two marble busts of Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ placed beside the altar. The works show fully baroque characters and, in particular, refer to the ambit of Giusto Le Court. The excellent workmanship suggests a direct intervention by the master who, active in important Venetian shipyards, might have been requested by some of the noble Pasqualingo. The unity of the environment also includes the elegant classic wooden stalls and the imaginative painted paper mache decorations, which frame doors and windows.

Church of San Biagio – Cornegliana
The name “Corniclana” appears for the first time in a public act of 1034. In that year the bishop of Padua “Bucardo” confirmed to the monastery of Santa Giustina, a series of goods, including the possession of Cornegliana. As the 10th papal in 1297 describes, the church was named after Saint Biagio and depended on the church of Maserà. Judging by the list of tenths of the following century, he had to enjoy a certain wealth; the amount of the benefits of the two clerics was among the most considerable for the time, with 320 fields, in addition to 10ths and 40ths. In 1490 the original building was rebuilt by the nobles James and Antonio De’ Dotti, who had its patronage until the 18th century, when this right passed to other lords, the Da Rio (these renounced it in 1919). A third modernized Romanesque church with a single nave was started in 1931. Inaugurated in 1943, it incorporates on the left the presbytery with frescoes from the previous building. In the third chapel on the left wall of the church of Cornegliana there is a fresco portraying Saint Francis and an oil on canvas from the end of the 16th century, attributed by scholars to a workshop in Vicenza. In the upper part of the picture it is possible to see Jesus in glory surrounded by the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist and St. John the Baptist, while below are portrayed in adoration of Christ the patron saints of Padua: Giustina Antonio, Prodoscimo, bearing the model of the city. The chapel is also decorated with two frescoes depicting the “Last Supper” and “Moses makes the water flow from the desert rock” attributed to the painter Stefano Dell’Arzere, while Gaspare Diziani seems to have been the creator of the precious frescoes of the vaults with the four evangelists. In the presbytery there is a Venetian altarpiece dating back to 1627 with the Madonna del Rosario with Jesus child and Saints. Of great value are also the stations of the Via Crucis by Antonio Bonazza, which decorate the walls of the ‘sacello’(small circular or square fence, with an altar).

The Abbey of Praglia – Praglia
Undoubtedly it is the most suggestive place of spirituality in the area of the Euganean Hills and historically also the most important testimony of the activity of the Benedictine monks since the Early Middle Ages. The Foundation of the Abbey, in fact, is to be placed between 11th and 12th century. The same name would seem to derive from the work done by the monks in those centuries: Praglia, precisely, derives from “Pratalea” (area or place of the meadows) which for more than a few historians finds justification in the great work of reclamation and cultivation of marshy lands started under the motto “Ora et labora” by the friars of the Abbey of S. Benedetto in Polirone of Mantua. At the time, in fact, the monastery still depended on the Abbey founded by Matilde’s grandfather of Canossa on the island that stood between the Po and the river Lirone. Only at the beginning of 14th century, the community of Praglia, consolidated and more firmly rooted in the Paduan environment, became completely autonomous by electing an Abbot taken from the ranks of his monks. In 1448 Praglia adhered to the Reformation of the Santa Giustina of Padua and this choice was the cause of his “second birth” spiritual, cultural and material. In those years there was also the reconstruction of the church and part of the monastic environments. The only visible testimony of the original medieval plant, in fact, remains the bell tower. In the following centuries the Abbey experienced continuous development to reach the current 13,000 square meters of covered area confirming itself at the same time as a monument of the art, thanks to the harmonious rationality and balance of the four cloisters, that articulate the space, the architectural style in which the late Gothic and the incipient Renaissance are happily integrated. The Abbey of Praglia, still inhabited today by Benedictine monks, is the destination of a constant religious tourism, it also houses a National Monumental Library, which contains about 100,000 volumes. The room on the upper floor is embellished with 17 canvases by Giovan Battista Zelotti, late 16th century painter, inserted in the magazines of the wooden ceiling. Another suggestive environment is the monumental refectory, inside which, in addition to the magnificent wooden furniture, there is a large “Crucifixion” painted by Bartolomeo Montagna at the end of the ‘400 and a marble pulpit used for reading the Scriptures during meals. The workshop for the restoration of books and ancient codes is another flagship of the Abbey.

Villa Vescovi – Luvigliano
Another important monument linked to faith, but above all to beauty, on the Euganean Hills is certainly Villa Vescovi in Luvigliano of Torreglia. The conception of this work was entrusted in the first ‘500 to the nobleman Alvise Cornaro by the Bishop of Padua, Cardinal Francesco Pisani, which here identified the ideal seat for an intellectual and humanistic circle gathered around the value of the landscape and its role as a stimulus to high reflections and thoughts, indispensable elements for the “good governance”. Born in the light of reason, Villa dei Vescovi, is one of the most important testimonies of the pre-Palladian architecture and the binomial constituted by the painter-architect of Verona Giovanni Maria Falconetto, who took care of the project, and the Venetian scholar Alvise Cornaro, who instead took care of the direction of the works. It was a masterpiece enriched inside by an important cycle of frescoes by the Flemish Lambert Sustris and that in time also found and collected the contribution of other great architects such as Giulio Romano, Vincenzo Scamozzi or Andrea della Valle. Villa dei Vescovi has returned today to its former glory thanks to the long restoration work of the FAI, completed in June 2011, which has returned to the community a true masterpiece of the Renaissance. Five centuries later, Villa dei Vescovi miraculously maintains its original ideal of life, which assigns to nature and the landscape a moral value capable of educating the spirit and inspiring the mind.

Hermitage of Mount Rua – Torreglia
The first camaldolesi anchorite settlements were born in Italy from the beginning of the XI century. A second phase of expansion has taken place, also in the urban areas, in the 15th  and 16th centuries, when the camaldolese presence in Italy spread from north to south, reaching about 100 seats between hermitages and monasteries. This includes the Hermitage of Santa Maria Annunziata di Torreglia, although its foundation dates back to 1339. Two hermits belonging to the community of S. Mattia di Murano reached the summit of Mount Rua (416 m above sea level) and obtained permission from the bishop of Padua to build the church in memory of the Virgin Mary, but the first camaldolese community was founded only in 1542. In the years immediately preceding the monastery was transformed, enlarged, also because it became one of the symbols of the spirituality of all the Veneto, till to attest itself on the forms of the typical Camaldolese Hermitage: composed of a small church surrounded by 14 cells in the form of houses and whose foundation dates back to 1530. Each cell consists of a bedroom, a study, a chapel with altar, a bathroom and a woodshed. Outside each cell is equipped with a small garden fenced by a wall. Still today it is inhabited by the Camaldolese Friars who live in a cloister. The walk around its walls is very suggestive. It’s possible to stay as the monks accept those who want to pause to contemplate the serenity of this place. Also here you can find some typical and exclusive products, which the monks manage to package with the care and wisdom handed down through the centuries.

Church of Santa Maria Assunta – Galzignano
The ancient Church of Santa Maria Assunta (no longer used) is a suggestive parish church of the 13th century, even if documents attest to the existence of a capital already around the year 1000, which stands in a beautiful position, located on the top of the hill of the same name overlooking the village, a green hill cultivated and shaded by cypresses. The old church built in a single nave with five altars, was rebuilt from the foundations in 1674 to a single nave in baroque style and consecrated on October 4, 1840. A century later it had become insufficient for the population more than doubled. Thus in 1947 the first stone of a new parish was blessed, no longer on the hill, but in the village square. The bell tower, rebuilt between 1878 and 1895 next to the old church, still serves the new one today. The Church of Santa Maria Assunta houses inside traces of frescoes and a canvas of the 17th  century depicting the Madonna Assunta surrounded by Angels with St. Valentino and St. Filippo Neri.

Church of Pigozzo – Due Carrare
The oratory of Santa Maria, better known as the little church of Pigozzo in Battaglia Terme, is what remains of an ancient church dating back to 1736 partially demolished in the early 1930s. It was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary because, it is said, here she appeared to a woman who while washing her clothes was attracted by the noise of a woodpecker (Pigozzo in Venetian dialect means woodpecker, cuckoo). Since time immemorial, on the 25th of March of every year, the day of the Annunciation, on the churchyard and on the courtyard of a neighboring farm is held the Festival of Pigozzo, traditional festival in honor of the Madonna del Pigozzo.