Description of the City of Padua at the Beginning of the 18th Century – Edition and Commentary
|Keywords||František Antonín Berka z Dubé, Italy, Padua, 17th century, Nostitz Library manuscript, Art history, Grand Tours|
|Citation||KUDĚLOVÁ, Lucie. Description of the City of Padua at the Beginning of the 18th Century – Edition and Commentary. Acta Musei Nationalis Pragae – Historia litterarum. Prague: National Museum, 2010, 55(1-2), 3–86. ISSN 0036-5351. Also available from: https://publikace.nm.cz/en/periodicals/amnphl/55-1-2/description-of-the-city-of-padua-at-the-beginning-of-the-18th-century-edition-and-commentary|
The essay is composed of three independent parts. The first part describes the history of cultural contacts of the Czech Kingdom with Italy. The second part reports on a number of Czech travelers who visited Italy and left some written records of their travels; also on Italians, mostly artists and merchants, who came to Czech lands and often remained there. The third, main and most extensive part analyzes an anonymous Italian manuscript which has been brought from Italy to Bohemia by František Antonín Berka z Dubé (1647/1649-1706). The manuscript describes the history of Padua, local monuments, the ancient university, landmarks, churches, their decorations, frescos, liturgical implements and other pieces of art. The preamble of the manuscript is devoted to the town history up to the year 1405, when Padua lost its independence. Both Berka and the anonymous author obviously were lovers of art. There is a remarkable accuracy and attention to detail in the author's description of places, such as the Church of St. Justina, Basilica of Saint Anthony or the Palazzo dell a Ragione. But very surprisingly, he does not mention the Scrovegni family chapel, which is decorated by Giotto's frescos. The text is not only a ,,guide" for visitors to Padua's art treasures: the author pays attention to Padua's inhabitants and their customs. (Some of those, such as selling of peerages or unequal marriages meet with his criticism.) The author also reports on other places in the area, some of which, in the mean time, have become parts of Padua, others are in the vicinity. The manuscript is one of many literary documents testifying to close Czech - Italian cultural contacts in the past. Many Czechs visited Italy, particularly Venice, on their pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Those pilgrims usually spent only a short time in Italy while waiting for a ship that would take them farther. In their memories, they mainly mention the Arsenal and the feast of Corpus Christi. However, there were others who stayed longer and recorded interesting and historically important information. The first of these was Václav Šašek z Bířkova, well known thanks to the belletristic rendition of his travels by the Czech author and historian Alois Jirásek. Italy was Šašek's last stop on his way through western Europe: that may be why he didn't pay as much attention to it as he did elsewhere. As far as the amount of information is concerned, the most interesting travel books are those written by Bedřich z Donína and Milota Zdirad Polák. Those authors stayed in Italy long enough that they could add to their memories various adventurous episodes, thrilling stories and religious tales. Since those two books are separated by two centuries, they give us the opportunity of comparing not just two different people, but also two different periods (early 17th century and early 19th century).
Italy was also a frequent destination for students going on their Grand Tours. To see the Eternal City and to study at one of the famous Italian universities was a necessary part of a person's education. On the other hand, many Italians came to the Czech kingdom, mostly as artists or merchants. Many of them remained there. Last but not least, we should pay attention to the person of František Antonín Berka z Dubé to whom we owe our thanks for bringing the manuscript to Bohemia. This nobleman was a typical aristocrat in diplomatic service to Emperor Leopold I. He spent many years as an envoy at leading European courts. He was both a collector and a patron of the arts. His famous collection of paintings was inherited by his stepbrother Antonfn Jan Nostitz (1652-1736). Some of those paintings can be found in the exhibition of the National Gallery in Prague. Earl František Antonín Berka z Dubé also initiated and patronized the construction of the Church of St. Lawrence and St. Zdislava in Jablonné v Podještědí an object of admiration of art-loving visitors. He married Ludovica Anna, daughter of Prince Raimondo Monteccucoli, but the union was childless, so that with him died out the spear side of the ancient Czech lineage of Berka z Dubé. Shortly thereafter, so did the distaff side.
The manuscript is deposited in the Nostitz Library, an integral part of the National Museum Library. This paper makes use of two short references by Josef Vítězslav Šimák and Vít Vinas. Its main body derives from the author's diploma thesis for her Master's in history at Charles University in Prague.