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The oratory of Villa Emo

The existence of a place of worship in the building by Andrea Palladio is rather confused and controversial. The scholar Donata Battilotti has tried to shed some light on it.

An ambiguous testimony is provided by the pastoral visits paid by the Bishop of Treviso to Fanzolo

in 1564 and in 1567. During the latter in fact, on the 2nd of May, the oratory of the villa was consecrated,

which indicates that on the previous visit the oratory had not been built or finished yet.

However, the building mentioned does not correspond to the present oratory, built in the west barchessa in the 1700s as a result of the transformation from villa-farm to villa-noble residence. The oratory consecrated to St. John the Baptist can be seen from the southern façade of Villa Emo, from the bell placed on the roof of the west barchessa. As you enter the portico of the barchessa you can see the architrave portal with its sober stone gable. Moreover this is the only door of the barchesse and, by extension, the entire villa, that is decorated with an architectural structure that is neither plaster nor paint, almost suggesting the importance of the place for worship compared with the other areas of the villa. The gable is surmounted by a niche in which, presumably, at one time a votive statue was placed.

The rectangular shaped oratory is accessed directly from this door, it is illuminated only in the apse by two lateral windows, one of which is blocked and by a half moon shaped window that follows the line of the cross-vaulted ceiling. The flooring is Venetian and in the middle of it there is a commemorative plaque with no inscription; to date nobody knows why it is there. On the walls we find the same colourful trompe l'oeil as in the rooms in the east barchessa; those in the oratory are sage green as in the last room in the east barchessa. There are four paintings on the walls of the oratory (two on the right and two on the left side) they are all etchings: on the left side there is St. Joseph, then Jesus Christ with Crucifix; on the right side there is St. Luke and then the etching of the mausoleum that was erected upon Angelo Emo's death.

The decoration of the ceiling is more elaborate, there is a stucco border along the whole perimeter of the room, broken up in some places by stuccoes of naturalistic inspiration with racemes and baskets. The ceiling of the room has a big stuccoed oval which is bordered by a sage green colour, with corner racemes inside and a central rosette. More elaborate is the cross vaulted ceiling of the apse broken up by sage green coloured stripes and festooned stuccoes that frame the central tondo; on this the dove of the Holy Spirit stands out on a pale blue sky, the dove too is made of stucco as well as the white clouds and the golden rays. These important stuccoed decorations are the only ones in the villa, besides Victoria’s frieze on the facade and the various statues spread around the garden and the barchesse.

The apse has a wooden altar decorated with faux marble. It rests on a wooden platform decorated with diamond-shaped floor patterns. On the altar there are two candle holders, a crucifix and a little wooden tabernacle that contains a small sculpture of a saint, probably St. Joseph, with a staff and a child in his arms. Above the altar, there is a large frame, bordered in marble and stone, that at one time presumably held an altar piece or a votive image, and now has a golden frame around an etching representing a crucifixion. At the sides of the altar two wooden shelves support two wooden candle holders above which, on the wall, there are the sage green paintings, currently an etching with St. Francis Serafic and an ex-voto containing an extract of the second letter to the Thessalonians. Of the presumed original furnishings only a kneeling stool and a confession kneeling stool topped by a metal grate decorated with a cross, are left. On the platform and on the altar itself there are fragments of upholstered material that used to be there to kneel on.


Based on the information available so far, we are not in the position to say where the oratory mentioned in the documents examined by Donata Battilotti, was located nor if it was near the villa or not. The oratory of Villa Emo is not open to visitors.

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