After the Hospitium Bovis was initially used as a teaching venue, it became the official seat of the University of Padova in 1539.
The initial work to restructure and expand the building began in 1522, but it wasn’t until the second part of the century that the palace began to take on the form that we know today. Andrea Moroni, an architect from Bergamo, was most likely the one behind the ancient Bo building, considering that he was a dominant figure around Padua at that time. However, there are no documents that directly confirm this to be the case.
He was responsible for building the Ancient Courtyard whose structure, based on the layout of a monastic cloister, includes a double loggia around which the lecture halls are positioned. Like many other rooms and buildings, the Courtyard was decorated by dozens of coats of arms, either painted or carved in relief (in wood or stone) that were put there until the end of the 17th century. These coats of arms represented the students, their families and those who held academic positions.
From the Ancient Courtyard, you reach the upper floor via a monumental staircase hosting the great statue sculpted by Bernardo Tabacco, dedicated to Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia who was awarded the Magistra et doctrix in philosophy by the University of Padova in 1678.
From here, you arrive to the Sala dei Quaranta which takes its name from the 40 modern portraits of famous students from the University who lived in Padua between the 13th and 19th centuries. Here, Galileo’s Podium is still preserved which is where, according to tradition, the scientist held his lessons. This room leads into the Great Hall to which reference was already made back in 1399 when it was cited as being part of the Hospitium Bovis. The Great Hall was assigned to the jurists, with the exception of Galileo, who was allowed to use it to teach considering the high number of students attending his lessons. During the 1850s, it was decided to only use the Great Hall for ceremonies: this was when the ceiling was decorated and the architect and designer from Milan, Gio Ponti, was called in to definitively reorganise the space. In 1942, he unveiled the seriously restyled hall.
From the upper loggia of the Ancient Courtyard, you can also reach the 16th century Anatomy Theatre, built when the professor Girolamo Fabrici d’Acquapendente was teaching at the university. This then leads into the Medicine Hall, which is today used for students to discuss their dissertations. This room was frescoed in 1942 by the futurist painter Achille Funi and was furnished by Gio Ponti. Inside, there is still a shrine containing the skulls of seven professors who decided to leave their bodies to scientific research. A walkway links this room to the Law Hall, frescoed in the 40s by Gino Severini, who used a neo-cubist style to design the decorations for the shutters, which were then made by Fulvio Pendini.