The Scrovegni Chapel (Italian: ''Cappella degli Scrovegni'', also known as the Arena Chapel), is a church in Padua, Veneto, Italy. It contains a fresco cycle by Giotto, completed about 1305, that is one of the most important masterpieces of Western art. The nave is 20,88 metres long, 8,41 metres wide, and 12,65 metres high. The apse area is composed by a square area (4.49 meters deep and 4,31 meters wide) and by a penthagonal area (2,57 meters deep).
- 1 Name
- 2 Building and decoration
- 3 Images
- 4 Notes
- 5 Bibliography
- 6 External links
The church was dedicated to Santa Maria della Carità at the Feast of the Annunciation, 1303, and consecrated in 1305. Giotto's fresco cycle focuses on the life of the Virgin Mary and celebrates her role in human salvation. A motet by Marchetto da Padova appears to have been composed for the dedication on 25 March 1305. The chapel is also known as the Arena Chapel because it was built on land purchased by Enrico Scrovegni that abutted the site of a Roman arena. The space was where an open-air procession and sacred representation of the Annunciation to the Virgin had been played out for a generation before the chapel was built.
Building and decoration
The Arena Chapel was commissioned from Giotto by the affluent Paduan banker, Enrico Scrovegni. In the early 1300s Enrico purchased from Manfredo Dalesmanini the area on which the Roman arena had stood. Here he had his luxurious palace built, as well as a chapel annexed to it. The chapel's project was twofold: to serve as the family's private oratory and funerary monument for himself and his wife. Enrico called Giotto, the famous Florentine painter, to decorate his chapel. Giotto had previously worked for the Franciscan friars in Assisi and Rimini, and had been in Padua for some time, working for the Basilica of Saint Anthony in the Sala del Capitolo and the Blessings's Chapel. A number of 14th-century sources (Riccobaldo Ferrarese, Francesco da Barberino, 1312-1313) testify to Giotto's presence at the Arena Chapel's site. The fresco cycle can be dated with a good approximation to a series of documental testimonies: the purchase of the land took place on 6 February 1300; the Bishop of Padua, Ottobono dei Razzi, authorised the building some time prior to 1302 (the date of his transferral to the Patriarcato of Aquileia); the chapel was first consecrated on 25 March 1303, on the day of the Annunciation; on 1 March 1304 Pope Benedict XI granted an indulgence to whomever would have visited the Chapel, then, one year later, the chapel received its definitive consecration, on 25 March 1305. Giotto's work thus falls in the time period which goes from 25 March 1303 to 25 March 1305.
Giotto painted the chapel's inner surface following a comprehensive iconographic and decorative project which in his book I volti segreti di Giotto. Le rivelazioni della Cappella degli Scrovegni (Rizzoli, 2008) Giuliano Pisani has identified as being the work of the Augustinian theologian, Friar Alberto da Padova. Among the sources utilised by Giotto following Friar Alberto's advice, are the Apocryphal Gospels of Pseudo-Matthew and Nicodemus, the Golden Legend (Legenda aurea) by Jacopo da Varazze (Jacobus a Varagine) and, for a few minute iconographic details, Pseudo-Bonaventura's Meditations of Jesus' Life, as well as a number of Augustinian texts, such as De doctrina Christiana, De libero arbitrio, De Genesi contra Manicheos, De quantitate animae, and other texts from the Medieval Christian tradition, among which the Phisiologus.
When he worked at Enrico Scrovegni's chapel Giotto, who was born in 1267, was 36–38 years old; he could count on a team of about 40 collaborators, and it was calculated that 625 work days were necessary to paint the chapel (by "work day" is meant each fresco's portion that is painted before the plaster is no longer "fresh", in Italian "fresco").
In January 1305 the Friars from the nearby Church of the Eremitani filed a complaint to the Bishop, protesting that the chapel's owner had not respected the original agreement: he was transforming his private oratory into an actual church with a bell tower, thus producing an unfair competition with the Eremitani's activities. We do not know what happened next, but it is likely that, as a consequence of this complaint, the monumental apse and the wide transept were demolished. Both are visible on the church's model painted by Giotto on the counter-façade (the Last Judgement). The apse was the section where Enrico Scrovegni had meant to have his burial place. The presence, in the apse, of frescoes dating to after 1320 strongly suggests the demolition hypothesis proposed by Giuliano Pisani. The apse area, which is typically the most significant one in all sacred buildings, is the place where Enrico and his wife, Iacopina d'Este, were buried. As it is, the apse presents a narrowing of the space which is quite surprising because it gives a sense of being incomplete and unharmonious. When one observes the lower frame of the triumphal arch, right above Saint Catherine of Alexandria's small altar piece, one notices that Giotto's perfect symmetry is altered by a fresco decoration representing two medallions with busts of women saints, a lunette with Christ in glory, and two episodes from the Passion (the prayer in the Getsemani garden and the flogging of Jesus) which all together gives an overall sense of disharmony. The artist who painted these scenes is the same who painted the great part of the apse: un unknown artist called "the Master of the Scrovegni Choir", who worked at the Chapel about twenty years after Giotto's work was completed. The main focus of the unknown artist's work is constituted by the six monumental scenes on the side walls of the presbitery, which depict the last period of Mary's earthly life - a choice in tune with the iconographic program inspired by Alberto da Padova and painted by Giotto.
Originally the chapel was connected with the Scrovegni palace, which was built on what remained of the elipitical ancient Roman arena's foundations. The palace was demolished in 1827 to obtain precious materials to sell, and to erect two condominiums. The chapel was purchased by the Municipality of the City of Padua in 1881, a year after the City Council's deliberation of 10 May 1880. The condominiums were demolished and restoration of the chapel could start. This was not an easy nor a satisfactory task. In June 2001, following a preparation study of over 20 years, the Istituto Centrale per il Restauro (Central Institute for Restoration) of the Ministry for Cultural Activities, in collaboration with Padua's Town Hall in its capacity of owner of the Arena Chapel, started a full-scale restoration of Giotto's frescoes under late Giuseppe Basile's technical direction. In 2000 the consolidation and restoration of the external surfaces had been completed and the adjacent "Corpo Tecnologico Attrezzato" (CTA) had been installed. In this "Equipped Technological Chamber" visitors wait for fifteen minutes to allow their body humidity to be lowered and smog dusts to be filtered. In March 2002 the chapel was reopened to the public in all its original splendour. A few problems remain unsolved: in the first place, the flood in the crypt underlying the nave, due to the presence of the "aquifer" (the water layer) and the cement inserts that in the 1960s replaced the original wooden ones, causing possible repercussions on the overall building's stability.
Errors recently confuted
Giuliano Pisani's studies proved a number of "common places" concerning the chapel to be groundless. Among them, the notion that Dante inspired Giotto. The theological program followed by Giotto is not Tomistic, namely based on Saint Thomas, but wholly Augustinian. The conjecture according to which the "Frati Gaudenti" fraternity, of which Enrico Scrovegni was a member, had a say in the elaboration of Giotto's fresco cycle, has also been proved wrong, and so has the belief that Enrico Scrovegni influenced the iconographic program to not have emphasis placed on his supposed "usury vice". Giuliano Pisani pointed out that Dante's condemnation of Enrico's father, Reginaldo, as a usurer in Canto 17 of Hell dates to a few years after Giotto's completion of the chapel and it cannot, therefore, be regarded as a motive behind any theological anxieties on Enrico's part back in the early 1300s. This common place is one of the most "folkloric" ones and should be definitively archived. It is a really strange and wrong idea that Enrico built the chapel in order to make amends for his father's sin of usury and to obtain absolution for his own sin of usury.
At a deeper level of analysis, a tennet of Giotto's scholarship was for a long time the belief that Giotto had made a number of theological mistakes, placing, for instance, Hope after Charity in the Virtues series, and not including Avarice in the Vices series, due to the usual representation of Enrico Scrovegni as a usurer. Giuliano Pisani has proved that Giotto is following a precise and faultless theological program based on Saint Augustin, a program which was devised by one of Europe's most prominent theologians of the time, Friar Alberto da Padova. From the standpoint of Giuliano Pisani’s discovery of the Augustinian inspiration and of the ultimate intermediary of this inspiration in the person of Friar Alberto da Padova, what used to be considered as "mistakes", whether intentional or unintentional, on Giotto and Enrico’s part, now appear to be constituent elements of a perfectly balanced theological program. Thus, for example, Avarice, far from being "absent" in Giotto's cycle, is portrayed with Envy, forming with it a fundamental component of a more comprehensive sin, Avaritia (Avarice) and Invidia (Envy) joined together. Avarice and Envy form one and the same "sinful entity", as the money bag which Envy is greedily clutching indicates. For this reason is Envy placed facing the triumphant Virtue of Charity, to indicate that Charity is the exact opposite of Envy, and that in order to cure oneself of the sin of Envy one needs to learn from Charity. Charity is crashing Envy's money bag under her feet, while on the opposite wall red flames burn under Envy's feet. It is therefore not correct to say that "Avarice" is absent due to Giotto’s theological ignorance or his commissioner’s dirty conscience or self-consciousness as a supposed "usurer". Actually, Enrico was an affluent banker, not exactly a usurer or money lender in a common sense.
Giotto's Vices and Virtues are not two separate series of negative and positive ethical representations, but, through Saint Augustin's texts and Friar Alberto da Padova's learned mediation, they can be viewed as part of a therapeutic progress proceeding in a zig-zag way from Stultitia (Lack of Moral Judgment) and Prudentia ("Prudence") – pair 1 – all the way to Desperatio (Desperation, "Lack of Hope") and Spes (Hope) – pair 7 –. Prior to Giuliano Pisani's interpretation, Vices and Virtues were seen as connected in a straight line to Hell and Paradise respectively, with no "dialogue" and interaction going on between and among each other and one another. Giotto's sequence of the Cardinal Virtues (Prudentia, Fortitudo, Temperantia, Iustitia) and the Theological Virtues (Fides, Caritas, Spes) follows the order fixed by Saint Augustine.
In the period 1300-1302 Friar Alberto was living at the adjacent convent of the Church of the Eremitani, one of Europe's leading centres for the study of theology at pre-university level. Friar Alberto concluded his career at the University of Paris, La Sorbonne (1319), where he reached the prestigious position of Magister. He was one of the brightest and most charismatic theologians of his time. He was born about 1269 and died in 1328.
The stories of Joachim and Anna, Mary and Christ, Vices and Virtues, Last Judgment and Vault
Giotto frescoed the whole chapel's surface, including the walls and the ceiling. The fresco cycle is organised along four tiers, each of which contains episodes from the stories of the various protagonists of the Sacred History. Each tier is divided into frames, each forming a scene. The chapel has an a-symmetrical shape, with six windows on one of its longer sides (the South wall). The chapel's shape determined the decorative module. The first step was choosing to place two frames in-between each double window sets on the South wall; next, the width and height of the tiers was fixed in order to calculate the same space on the opposite wall (the North wall).
The cycle recounts the Story of salvation. It starts from high up, on the lunette of the triumphal arch, when God the Father decides to get reconciled with humanity, entrusting the archangel Gabriel with the announcement of his decision to erase Adam’s sin with the sacrifice of His son. The narrative goes on with the Stories of Joachim and Anne (first tier from the top, South wall) and the Stories of Mary (first tier from the top, North wall). Next we go back to the triumphal arch, with the scenes of the Annunciation and the Visitation. The Stories of Christ follow on the middle tier, South and North walls. The scene of Judas receiving the money is on the triumphal arch. The lower tier (South and North walls) shows the Passion and Resurrection: the last frame is the Pentecost (North wall). Right below the fourth tier begins (ground level) with the monochromes of the Vices (North wall) and the Virtues (South wall). The West wall (counter-façade) represents the grandiose Last Judgment.
The scenes depicted are as follows:
Triumphal arch (lunette): *The mission of the Annunciation to Mary;
Upper tier, South wall:
- The Expulsion of Joachim
- Joachim amongst the shepherds
- An angel comes to Anna in prayer announcing the birth of Mary
- Joachim sacrifices a kid goat to the Lord
- Joachim's dream
- Joachim meets Anna at the Golden Gate
Upper tier, North wall:
- Nativity of Mary and bathing the infant
- Presentation of Mary at the Temple
- The bringing of the branches
- Prayer for the blossoming of the branches
- The marriage of the Virgin
- The nuptial cortege
- The Annunciation
Middle tier, South wall:
- The Nativity of Jesus
- The Adoration of the Magi
- The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple
- The Flight into Egypt
- The Massacre of the Innocents
Middle tier, North wall:
- The Finding in the Temple (Jesus among the doctors)
- The Baptism of Jesus
- The Wedding at Cana
- The Resurrection of Lazarus
- Christ enters Jerusalem
- Casting out the money changers
- Judas's Betrayal
Lower tier, South wall:
- The Last Supper
- The washing of the feet
- The Kiss of Judas
- Jesus before Caiaphas
- Flagellation of Christ
Lower tier, North wall;
- The ascent to Calvary
- Lamentation of Christ
- The Resurrection of Jesus — "Noli me tangere"
Bottom tier, North wall: Vices:
Bottom tier, South wall: Virtues:
- The Last Judgment
The vault represents the eighth day, the time of eternity, God’s time, with eight planets (the tondos which enclose the seven great prophets of the Old Testament plus John the Baptist) and two suns (which show God and the Madonna with Child), while the blue sky is studded with eight-point stars (8, if laid down, symbolises infinity).
The monochrome allegories of Vices and Virtues
The bottom tiers of the longer walls feature 14 allegories, in monochrome, symbolising Vices on the North wall and Virtues on the South wall. The Vices are: Stultitia, Inconstantia, Ira, Iniusticia, Infidelitas, Invidia, Desperatio). The Virtues are divided as follows: the four Cardinal Virtues: Prudentia, Iustitia, Temperantia, Fortitudo, followed by the three Theological ones: Fides, Karitas, Spes. Each virtue and vice is embedded within a mirror-like marble frame. The name of the vice or the virtue is written in Latin on top of each figure, indicating what these figures represent: the seventh day (the day between Jesus’s birth and the Final Judgement).
Vices and Virtues must be read starting from the altar’s side, going towards the counter-façade (Final Judgement). The sequence is not "Vices first, then Virtues" as was long believed, but it proceeds from Vice 1 (Stultitia) (North Wall, right hand side) to Virtue 1 (Prudencia) (South wall, left hand side), to Vice 2 (Inconstantia) (North wall) to Virtue 2 (Fortitudo) (South side), and so on. Vices and Virtues symbolise humanity’s progress toward bliss (heavenly happiness). With the aid of Virtues, humanity can overcome obstacles (Vices). This is the philosophical-theological itinerary designed by Giotto’s theologian, an extremely learned theologian who drew his inspiration from Saint Augustin. The Vice-Virtue section of the Arena Chapel fully illustrates the philosophical-theological message underlying its overall project and is the reading key to clarify a few points (in addition to those mentioned above) that were previously considered to be either obscure or the result of an approximate theological knowledge on Giotto’s part. This innovative reading of the Arena Chapel is the outcome of Giuliano Pisani’s book I volti segreti di Giotto. Le rivelazioni della Cappella degli Scrovegni. For instance, Vices are not, in the Arena Chapel, the traditional capital vices or deadly sins (Pride, Envy, Wrath, Sloth, Greed, Gluttony and Lust), just like the "corresponding" virtues do not reflect the traditional order, consisting in four "cardinal virtues" (Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance) and three "theological virtues" (Faith, Hope and Charity).
At stake is a twofold therapeutic path leading to salvation. The first, composed of four virtues, brings to the cure by means of the opposing force provided by the Cardinal Virtues. The arrival point in this first part of the itinerary is Justice, "Iusticia", who makes peace possible and therefore ensures Paradise on earth and earthly happiness. The first Vice in this first section is Stultitia, namely the incapacity to distinguish good and evil. Its cure (opposite wall) is Prudencia, "Prudence," which in classical and theological terms is not "cautiousness" but "moral intelligence", which is to say the capacity to distinguish good and evil. We are in the sphere of Knowledge. Next comes the pair Inconstantia, "Inconstancy" (North wall) - Fortitudo, "Fortitude" (South wall). Fortitude (moral and mental strength) triumphs over Inconstancy’s lewd oscillations by means of will. "Inconstancy" is literally "the lack of a stable seat"; it is a mix of light-headedness, volubility, and inconsistency. "Inconstancy" is portrayed as a young woman rolling over a ball, ready to fall, on a motley marble floor signifying the lack of "unity" ("constancy") which characterises an inconstant mind. We are in the sphere of Will. Wrath, the third vice, is "tempered" by Temperantia, "Temperance". According to Saint Augustin, "temperantia" is the inner balance which ensures will’s stable dominion over instincts and keeps human desires within the boundaries of honesty. It is the therapy necessary to prevail over passions, which are symbolised by Wrath, because Wrath is the most perilous of all the passions: it is sudden and destructive, even against own’s dearest ones, and is therefore the passion that human beings need to learn how to control in the first place. This notion is a tenet of ancient Greek and (in its footprints) Roman philosophy, which Saint Augustin made his own and Giotto’s theologian transmitted to him, fusing together a number of Saint Augustin’s writings.
Prudence, Fortitude and Temperance pertain to each individual’s ethical sphere of action and have as their goal the cure of each individual "self". The ethical virtue takes a form in its practical application, through actions and behaviours that pertain both to the personal sphere and the social one. They affect human relations. The notions of Justice and Injustice – the central "pair" in Gioot’s Arena Chapel – emanate from this notion. Justice’ perfect centrality is visually emphasized by an architectural "die", a small cube, which runs above each of the various personifications in a slightly slanted way either (pointing either toward the apse or the counter-façade): everywhere so, but above the head of Justice (South wall) and Injustice (North wall, on which the small die falls in a perpendicular line, marking at the same time the exact physical half of the chapel as well as Justice’s curing function from a theological-philosophical viewpoint, without forgetting that Justice is what cures the soul of the sickening effects of Injustice (on the other chapel’s side).
Those who have successfully progressed in their therapeutic path have attained Justice. Those who have not, have attained Injustice. Those who have attained Justice have practiced a soul’s therapy that can be defined as "human", which has led them to earthly happiness. They used as their therapy the "medicina animi", the "soul’s medicine" provided by the cardinal virtues (in the sequence Prudence-Fortitude-Temperance-Justice), namely the moral and intellectual virtues with whose "medicine" human beings can be cured of, and are able to prevail over the opposing vices.
Next come the theological virtues. In order to be able to aspire to the heavenly Paradise one needs the divine teachings, the revelation of truth – with which one overcomes and transcends human reason –, and the practice of the theological virtues. The "divine therapy" takes its moves from the rejection of false beliefs (Infidelitas) through Faith in God (Fides). Only with the "medicine" of Charity (Karitas) can man out-beat Selfishness and Envy (Invidia), which lead him to look with malevolent eyes (Latin "in-vidēre") at his neighbour, who is made by God in His likeness. Finally with the aid (the medicine) of Hope (Spes) man can contrast Lack of Hope, Desperation (Desperatio). Hope is the attitude consisting in actively waiting for God’s future blessings which descend from the trust in God and in His word, but it also consists in the love, through the love of God, of the whole of the human kind.
The sources of this extraordinary program have been identified by Giuliano Pisani in a number of passages of Saint Augustin’s works. Everything finds a perfect correspondence with something: the theme of the "therapy of the opposites"; the sequential order of the cardinal and theological virtues, and the centrality of Justice.
The life of Christ
|Image||Name||Size (cm)||Image||Name||Size (cm)|
|Nativity - Birth of Jesus||200x185||Last Supper||200x185|
|Adoration of the Magi||200x185||Washing of Feet||200x185|
|Presentation of Christ at the Temple||200x185||The Arrest of Christ (Kiss of Judas)||200x185|
|Flight into Egypt||200x185||Christ before Caiaphas||200x185|
|Massacre of the Innocents||200x185||Christ mocked||200x185|
|Christ among the Doctors||200x185||Road to Calvary||200x185|
|Baptism of Christ||200x185||Crucifixion||200x185|
|Marriage at Cana||200x185||Lamentation (The Mourning of Christ)||200x185|
|Raising of Lazarus||200x185||Resurrection (Noli me tangere)||200x185|
|Entry into Jerusalem||200x185||Ascension||200x185|
|Expulsion of the Money-changers from the Temple||200x185||Pentecost||200x185|
Vices and Virtues
|The mission of the Annunciation to Mary||230x690|
|Giotto's Arena (Scrovegni) Chapel - Part 1 Overview (4:57), Smarthistory|
|Part 2 Narrative Cycle (10:14)|
|Part 3 The Lamentation (5:42)|
|Part 4 The Last Judgment (6:23)|
- Anne Robertson 'Remembering the Annunciation in Medieval Polyphony' Speculum70 (1995), 275-304
- Giuliano Pisani, La concezione agostiniana del programma teologico della Cappella degli Scrovegni, in Alberto da Padova e la cultura degli agostiniani, a cura di F. Bottin, Padova University Press 2014, pp. 215-268
- Alberto da Padova e la cultura degli agostiniani, a cura di F. Bottin, Padova University Press 2014, pp. 1-322
- "Giotto's Arena (Scrovegni) Chapel". Smarthistory at Khan Academy. Retrieved March 26, 2013.
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- Derbes, Anne, and Mark Sandona. The Usurer's Heart: Giotto, Enrico Scrovegni, and the Arena Chapel in Padua. Pennsylvania State University Press, 2008.
- Derbes, Anne, and Mark Sandona, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Giotto. Cambridge University Press, 2004.
- Frugoni, Chiara L'affare migliore di Enrico: Giotto e la cappella Scrovegni Einaudi, 2008
- Jacobus, Laura Giotto and the Arena Chapel: Art, Architecture and Experience Brepols/Harvey Miller Publications, 2008
- Ladis, Andrew Giotto's O Pennsylvania State University Press, 2008
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- Giuliano Pisani, Terapia umana e divina nella Cappella degli Scrovegni, in «Il Governo delle cose», dir. Franco Cardini, Firenze, n. 51, anno VI, 2006, pp. 97–106.
- Giuliano Pisani, L'iconologia di Cristo Giudice nella Cappella degli Scrovegni di Giotto, in «Bollettino del Museo Civico di Padova», XCV, 2006, pp. 45–65 (https://www.academia.edu/4162139/Liconologia_di_Cristo_Giudice_nella_Cappella_degli_Scrovegni).
- Giuliano Pisani, Le allegorie della sovrapporta laterale d'accesso alla Cappella degli Scrovegni di Giotto, in «Bollettino del Museo Civico di Padova», XCV, 2006, pp. 67–77.
- Giuliano Pisani, Il miracolo della Cappella degli Scrovegni di Giotto, in Modernitas – Festival della modernità (Milano 22-25 giugno 2006), Spirali, Milano 2006, pp. 329–57.
- Giuliano Pisani, Una nuova interpretazione del ciclo giottesco agli Scrovegni, in «Padova e il suo territorio», XXII, 125, 2007, pp.4–8.
- Giuliano Pisani, I volti segreti di Giotto. Le rivelazioni della Cappella degli Scrovegni, Rizzoli, Milano 2008, pp. 1-366. ISBN 978-88-17-02722-9; Editoriale Programma, Treviso, 2015, pp. 1-366 ISBN 978-88-6643-353-8.
- Giuliano Pisani, Il programma della Cappella degli Scrovegni, in Giotto e il Trecento, catalogo a cura di A. Tomei, Skira, Milano 2009, I – I saggi, pp. 113–127 (https://www.academia.edu/6608705/Giotto._Il_programma_della_Cappella_degli_Scrovegni).
- Giuliano Pisani, La fonte agostiniana della figura allegorica femminile sopra la porta palaziale della Cappella degli Scrovegni, in «Bollettino del Museo Civico di Padova», XCIX, 2010 (2014), pp. 35-46 (https://www.academia.edu/5178881/La_fonte_agostiniana_della_figura_allegorica_femminile_sopra_la_porta_palaziale_della_Cappella_degli_Scrovegni).
- Stokstad, Marilyn; Art History, 2011, 4th ed., ISBN 0-205-79094-1
- Giuliano Pisani, La concezione agostiniana del programma teologico della Cappella degli Scrovegni, in Alberto da Padova e la cultura degli Agostiniani, a cura di F. Bottin, Padova University Press, Padova 2014, pp. 215-268 (https://www.academia.edu/11613902/La_concezione_agostiniana_del_programma_teologico_della_Cappella_degli_Scrovegni).
- Giuliano Pisani, Il capolavoro di Giotto. La Cappella degli Scrovegni, Editoriale Programma, Treviso, 2015, pp. 1–176 ISBN 978-88-6643-350-7 (https://www.academia.edu/24989584/Il_capolavoro_di_Giotto._La_Cappella_degli_Scrovegni)
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