The Church of Santa Sofia is perhaps the oldest church in the city of Padova. Come today to see a structure that dates back to the Roman period, with construction having begun in the early 12th century. However, a place of worship is known to have stood on this site even earlier than this. The building is an impressive testament to the long history of Padova, a city defined by its deep roots and ancient buildings.
Try to imagine when a very different building stood on this spot. It is thought that the earlier place of worship here was likely a pagan temple. Inside the church’s vault is a sacrificial stone dating from these early pre-Christian days. The remains of the building’s original foundations are preserved here too. Inside, look for beautiful artwork including Madonna with Child by Giovanni da Gaibana.
Stand outside the church and look up at the stately façade of the building. It is built from a combination of bricks and stone. Like many of Padova’s buildings, it has a warm, sandy colour. The geometry of the exterior is very neat and simple, with the shape of the roof and the arched details marking the building as Romanesque.
The church stands close to a wide range of other cultural attractions. The surrounding area has a cluster of museums housed in beautiful buildings, including the Museum of Zoology, the Museum of the History of Physics, the Eremitani Museum, which houses archeological artifacts, and the Third Army Museum. Find several other churches in the vicinity too, including the gorgeous Scrovegni Chapel in the lovely green Giardini dell’Arena. Allow time to visit the Roman arena that is located in this delightful park.
Walk to the Church of Santa Sofia in about 20 minutes from Padova’s main train station. The route is very pretty and will take you across the photogenic Brenta river. The church is open daily, with morning and evening hours. After you visit the church, consider heading back north and strolling along the river’s lovely banks, which draw cyclists, walkers and joggers in good weather.