Botanical Garden (Orto Botanico), Padua
Botanical Garden (Orto Botanico), Padua
Cultural Italy Europe And North America City And Province Of Padova, Veneto Region,

The Botanical Garden of Padua is the original of all botanical gardens throughout the world, and represents the birth of science, of scientific exchanges, and understanding of the relationship between nature and culture. It has made a profound contribution to the development of many modern scientific disciplines, notably botany, medicine, chemistry, ecology, and pharmacy.

Many distinguished scholars in the disciplines of botany and medicine have worked at the University of Padua since its foundation in 1222. Among these were Alberto Magno, who obtained his degree there in 1223 and went on to become the patron saint of the natural sciences, Pietro d'Abano (1250-1316), Giacomo Dondi Orologio (1298-1360), and Domenico Senno (1461-1531). In 1533 Francesco Bonafede (1474-1558) was appointed to the Chair of Lectura Simplicium at the University by the Most Serene Republic of Venice. In 1543 he petitioned for the creation of a model herbarium and botanical garden, which was established by decree of the Most Serene Republic on 29 June 1545. Work began immediately on a plot belonging to the Benedictine Order, whose monks were probably already raising medicinal plants there. Implementation of the project was assigned to Daniele Barbaro, translator of the De architectura of Vitruvius.

The garden has remained here ever since. Various additions have been made in the intervening centuries - a pumping installation to supply 10 fountains in the 17th century, four monumental entrances in 1704, and new masonry greenhouses in the late 18th and early 19th century. An arboretum, an English garden with winding paths, and a small hillock (belvedere) were also added around this time.

Barbaro's intention was to lay the 22,000 m2 of the irregularly shaped area out in the form of a tiny paradisal world surrounded by a ring of water (Alicomo Canal) to represent the ocean. Within he planned a circular hortus conclusus (walled garden) 86 m in diameter, which in turn enclosed a 41 m square plot. The entire garden was divided into four quadrants by pathways at right angles, running to the four cardinal points.

Early documents show that the Botanical Garden was enclosed by a high brick wall, while the four smaller squares created by the two pathways cutting the central square were embellished with geometric flower beds, bordered with stone, in each of which a single plant species was grown. This basic layout survives to the present day, although with many later additions.

When the four entrances were refashioned in 1704, the wrought-iron gates giving on to the inner circles and the four acroteria were placed on the eight pillars and surmounted by four pairs of wrought-iron plants (Fritillatia, Ananas, Lilium and Yucca). The Istrian stone fountains outside the round garden date to the same period and represent Theophrastus and Solomon. The elegant balustrade, which runs along the top of the entire 250 m of the circular wall, was also completed during the first half of the 18th century. The heated stone-built greenhouses replaced mobile conservatories used for protecting delicate plants during the winter, which were located on the south side of the ring.

The Botanical Garden also houses two important collections. The library contains more than 50,000 volumes and manuscripts of immense historical and bibliographic importance. The herbarium is the second most extensive in Italy.

The garden has traditionally collected and grown particularly rare plants, which have then been introduced into the rest of Europe. Currently there are over 6,000 species, arranged according to systematic and utilitarian criteria (medicinal plants, essence-producing plants) and ecological-environmental criteria (peat-bog plants, Mediterranean maquis flora, alpine flora). There are also thematic collections (carnivorous, succulent, aquatic, poisonous) and single-genus collections (Salix L., Allium L., Ornithogallum L., Aster L., Campanula L .). Of particular interest is the collection of plants which are rare or threatened by extinction, some of which have been successfully reproduced in the garden.