Seat of the University / Anatomical Theatre

Palazzo BO

In the first decades of the sixteenth century the various ‘schools’ scattered throughout the districts of the city were housed in one single structure, the Palazzo del Bo. Located near the street traditionally occupied by butcher’s shops, the building derived its name from the sign of the famous Hospitium Bovis [Ox Inn] that occupied one of the patrician homes built in this area from the end of the thirteenth century onwards.

The conversion of the existing structures for university use began in 1494 and would be concluded at the beginning of the seventeenth century. A new programme of work
on the structure would begin in 1889, with the building being completed in its present form in 1938-1942. That latter phase included the creation of the New Court, commissioned from the architect Ettore Fagiuoli by the then Chancellor, Carlo Anti.

The décor and furnishings of the completed structure were the work of the famous architect Giò Ponti.

Anatomy Theatre

This was built in 1594 for the famous
professor of anatomy Gerolamo Fabrici d’Acquapendente.

The earliest permanent anatomy theatre in the world – up to then, temporary structures were erected for those attending autopsies – this is also the oldest still extant.

The wooden structure has the form
of an inverted cone with an elliptical ground plan; it comprises six concentric ranks of
seats that rise around the anatomy table.

The banisters and balustrades are in carved walnut. Originally, the windows were blank
panels, with the lighting for anatomy lessons being provided by torches.

In the small room alongside – once used in preparing the bodies for dissection
– there is a small exhibition illustrating its history.

You should know

Throughout the centuries many professors
(scientists, jurists and literati) made
Padova University a centre which irradiates
culture all over Europe.

Scholars came from all over Europe and often started their own cultural institutions
on their return home.

To name a few:

  • Giovan Battista Morgagni
    Founder of pathological anatomy
  • Andreas Vesalius
    Flemish anatomist
  • Girolamo Fabrici d'Acquapendente
    Set up the permanent anatomy theatre
  • Marcantonio dalla Torre
    Leonardo da Vinci's anatomy instructor
  • William Harvey
    Discoverer of  the circulation of the blood

And last but not least... Nicolaus Copernicus