The Scrovegni Chapel, dedicated to St. Mary of the Charity, frescoed between 1303 and 1305 by Giotto, upon the commission of Enrico degli Scrovegni, is one of the most important masterpieces of Western art. The frescoes, which narrate events in the lives of the Virgin Mary and Christ, cover the entire walls. On the wall opposite the altar is the grandiose Universal Judgement, which concludes the story of human salvation.
The chapel was originally attached to the Scrovegni family palace, built after 1300, following the elliptical outline of the remains of the Roman arena. The Chapel was acquired by the City of Padova in 1880, and the vulnerable frescoes were subjected to several specialized restoration operations during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Enrico Scrovegni was a Paduan money-lender who lived around the time of Giotto and Dante. He was the son of Reginaldo degli Scrovegni and Capellina Malacapelli, and was married twice, first to a member of the Carrara family, then to Jacopina (Giacomina) d’Este, daughter of Francesco d’Este, Marquis of Ferrara. He may have been a member of the Cavalieri Gaudenti. Enrico is most famous as the patron of Giotto, commissioning the great painter to paint the famous Scrovegni Chapel, c.1303-5, which he also commissioned. There is a tradition that he hired Giotto to atone for the sin of usury, although there is debate about whether this idea has any foundation. Dante placed his father in the Seventh Circle of Hell for his notoriously ill-gotten gains, and Enrico himself was a moneylender on a grand scale; it is these facts that have given rise to the tradition. Against the idea that he founded the chapel as an act of atonement may be cited the fact that it was a very sumptuous commission for his own personal use, attached to the grand palace that he built for himself. In 1320 Enrico Scrovegni fled the wars and civil strife that plagued Padua at the time, and settled in Venice. He was formally banished from Padua in 1328, and died in Venice in 1336
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