The spatial depth, emotional intensity, and naturalism of the frescoes illustrating the lives of Mary and Jesus in this world-famous chapel—note the use of blue sky instead of the conventional, depth-destroying gold background of medieval painting—broke new ground in Western art. Enrico Scrovegno commissioned these frescoes to atone for the sins of his deceased father, Reginaldo, the usurer condemned to the Seventh Circle of the Inferno in Dante's Divine Comedy. Giotto and his assistants worked on the frescoes from 1303 to 1305, arranging them in tiers to be read from left to right. Opposite the altar is a Last Judgment, most likely designed and painted by Giotto's assistants, where Enrico offers his chapel to the Virgin, celebrating her role in human salvation—particularly appropriate, given the penitential purpose of the chapel.
Mandatory reservations, nonrefundable and for a specific time, can be made in advance at the ticket office, online, or by phone.
Payments online or by phone by credit card must be made one day in advance. Reservations are necessary even if you have a Padova Card. In order to preserve the artwork, doors are opened only every 15 minutes. A maximum of 25 visitors at a time must spend 15 minutes in an acclimatization room before making a 15-minute (20-minute in winter, late June, and July) chapel visit. Punctuality is essential; tickets should be picked up at least one hour before your reservation time. If you don't have a reservation, it's sometimes possible to buy your chapel admission on the spot—but you might have to wait a while until there's a group with an opening. You can see fresco details as part of a virtual tour at the Musei Civici degli Eremitani. A good place to get some background before visiting the chapel is the multimedia room, where there are films and interactive computer presentations. Between Christmas and Epiphany (January 6), the chapel sometimes has special late hours.