In the 6th century, the praetorian prefect Venanzio Opilione built a basilica on the site of the tomb of Saint Justina of Padua, martyred in 304.
The basilica, which in the meantime was flanked by an important Benedictine monastery, collapsed due to the earthquake of 1117. The church was rebuilt in the following years, reusing what remained of the previous construction.
Between the 14th and the 16th centuries, the choir, the sacristy and the Chapel of San Luca were built. In this period, the adjacent monastery was also rebuilt.
Starting with 1501, a new construction was begun on the project of Girolamo da Brescia. After abandoning the da Brescia project, the monks entrusted the work to Sebastiano da Lugano and then to Andrea Briosco. After the death of the latter, the direction of the work passed to Andrea Moroni and then to Andrea da Valle.
The huge construction site lasted for more than a century. The basilica was solemnly consecrated on March 14, 1606.
Following the Napoleonic ecclesiastical laws, the abbey was seized and the monks were removed. More than three quarters of the Benedictine artistic goods were shipped to France, and others were sold or alienated.
The basilica remained closed between 1810 and 1812, until the bishop Francesco Scipione Dondi dall’Orologio, to prevent its demolition, transformed it into a parish church run by secular priests. The nearby monastery became a military hospital and then a barracks.
In 1919, on the approval of Pope Benedict XV, some monks from the Abbey of Praglia began to rebuild the monastery. In 1943, the new Benedictine community elected, after more than a century, its abbot. In 1948, the state granted access to the entire monastery to the monks, who started a great restoration campaign.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The church has a Latin cross plan, and measures 118.5 meters in lenght and 82 meters in width, being one of the largest in Christianity and the seventh in Italy.
The unfinished facade rises on a platform which leads to the three portals with bronze doors. On the facade, there is a large rose window, some smaller openings, and four empty niches on which, on the occasion of the Jubilee of 2000, high reliefs depicting the Evangelists were placed.
There are three main chapels – the presbytery with the choir, and the two of the Saints Luke and Matthew that form the transept of the basilica. Along the aisles, twelve smaller chapels open, six on each side.
26 grandiose pillars support the roof with eight domes. The central one, with the lantern, is almost 70 meters in height and is dominated by the copper statue of Santa Giustina, about 5 meters high.
The floor of the basilica was laid between 1608 and 1615 on a geometric design, with yellow, blue and red marble.
The presbytery, raised from the floor level, is accessible by a monumental staircase. Below, there is a large crypt, now used as a winter chapel.
The high altar is decorated with fine inlays of marble and pieces of mother-of-pearl, coral, lapis lazuli, carnelian, pearls and other precious materials. The altar was built between 1637 and 1643 by Pietro Paolo Corbarelli, based on a design by Giovan Battista Nigetti. On October 7, 1627, the remains of Saint Justina were inserted under the altar.
The monumental wooden choir was completed in 1555 in Corinthian style by the French artist Richard Taurigny of Rouen. The choir is characterized by 88 high-stalls carved with the facts of the Old Testament and with the actions of Christ.
Inside the church, we can find works by Paolo Veronese, Luca Giordano, Sebastiano Ricci and the Corbarelli family, and the famous relics of the Saints Innocents, Saint Luke the Evangelist, Saint Matthew, Saint Prosdocimus, Saint Maximus the Confessor, Saint Felicitas of Padua, Saint Julian the Hospitaller, Saint Urio and the titular saint, Giustina.
HOW TO GET THERE
Basilica of Santa Giustina is located about 2.6 kilometers from the Padua railway station. The closest bus stop is Cavazzana, located near the church, on the bus Lines U03, U11, U13, U14, U16, U24, U43 and U88. The closest tram stop is Prato, located about 400 meters away, on the tram Line SIR1.