We’re continuing our Italian Adventures with a visit to The Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua.
St. Anthony is one of my favorite saints of my Catholic faith. He is the Patron of Lost Things. I’ll be the first to admit he has brought many of my emergency prayers before God…
- Lost wallet in NYC – panicking – yeah St. Anthony helped calm my nerves
- My cat Cezanne…she was abandoned at five weeks and living in a sewer near my house, but we couldn’t catch the kitty to take her to the vet. I asked God to send St. Anthony to find this cat and one minute later I received a call from the shelter (who helped catch her)that she was found. Coindence maybe but given the fact my cat is my feline best friend…I’ll claim the miracle.
So what is a Saint? In many Christian traditions, Saints are venerated as a reminder of God’s work in humanity. For instance, St. Padua was known for his ability to help the lost spiritual sheep find their way back to God.
Here are a few helpful definitions as we explore this gorgeous church:
- Saint:a person acknowledged as holy or virtuous and typically regarded as being in heaven after death.
- Intercessory Prayer: The belief that the saints are your prayer partners in heaven, pleading with you before God to help prayers get answered. As a faithful person I know God hears all prayers, but when two or more are gathered he is certainly there so a little spiritual prayer help is appreciated. The Saints are not worshipped in the Catholic (and other Christian faiths) but used as models of how to be faithful and accept forgiveness (because they were sinners too!) Veneration simply means you admire and want to learn from them. It is hard to understand coming from a Protestant tradition, but I’ve grown to find learning about the saints has helped me grow in faith.
- Relic: in religion, strictly, the mortal remains of a saint; in the broad sense, the term also includes any object that has been in contact with the saint.
- Reliquary: where the relic is kept and often these reliquaries are works of art that are treasured
- If you are interested in learning more about Cathedrals and their architecture I recommend taking the online course ‘The Cathedral’ with Dr. Cook on Wondrium. I watched it during the darkest days of the pandemic and it was fascinating
Before we tour the Basilica, let’s take a moment to get to know St. Anthony of Padua
Get to know St. Anthony of Padua – Patron Saint of Lost Things
The Basilica has a great timeline of St. Anthony’s life and works here...
- He was born in Lisbon Portgual in 1195 to a wealthy family. He became an early Franciscan follower and hoped to go to Morocco to preach to the Sacracens there. Unfortunately he got sick on the way and his dreams of missionary work with dashed…alas God always has a better plan.
- Anthony’s ability as a preacher and educator brought The Gospel to people throughout Italy and France. He was known as ‘The Golden Tongue,’ because not only did he know the Word of God, he also had a humility and spirit of service that helped people know they were loved by God personally and uniquely.
- He is the patron saint of lost things and probably one of the most popular saints because he is known for miraculous help as a prayer partner (St. Anthony taking the faithful’s requests to God)
Facts about The Basilica:
- Construction on The Basilica began in 1232, only one year after St. Anthony’s death. It was completed in 1310, but continued improvements were made through the 17th century (Baroque era)
- St. Anthony was originally buried in the small church of Santa Maria Mater Domini, which was near a convent founded by St. Anthony. This church is now incorporated into the current basilica as the Chapel of the Dark Madonna
- This Basilica is unique in that it includes five different styles of architecture that all fuse together effortlessly.
- Gothic, Romanesque, Byzantine (notice the Turkish minarets and other Byzantine influences a la St. Mark’s in Venice), Renaissance and Baroque
- The eastern apse was built in 1691 by Bernini’s pupil Filippo Parodi in the Baroque style
- While it is one of the largest churches in Italy and Basilica of spiritual importance (designated by The Holy See) St. Anthony’s Basilica is actually NOT the Cathedral of Padua (seat of the Bishop)…that is the Cathedral of St. Mary of Padua and is also worth a visit.
- Known to locals as Il Santo – as a term of endearment to St. Anthony
- Every June 13th on The Feast Day of St. Anthony the people of Padua celebrate with a large procession through the city, carrying the relics of St. Anthony.
The Artistic Treasures of the Basilica of St. Anthony:
A must see at The Basilica of St. Anthony is work by Renaissance master – Donatello
- Donatello: In the early 1450s, Florentine sculptor Donatello was commissioned to undertake important works for the Basilica of St. Anthony. He created an awe-inspiring bronze crucifix and a new high altar. At the time this was the most ambitious achievement in European (15th-century).
- The high altar is richly decorated with architectural framework of marble and limestone with seven life-size bronze statues, 21 bronze reliefs of various sizes and a large limestone relief: The Entombment of Christ.
- Learn more here
The church features the work of Florentine Donatello who lived in Padua for about a decade
Quick tour of The Basilica:
- Right nave: Chapel of St. James – this gorgeous Gothic chapel is adorned with beautiful frescoes by Veronese born Altichieroda Zevio, which tell the stories of St. James (a disciple of Jesus and first of the disciples to be martyred…he was the brother of St. John the Evangelist -who wrote the Gospel of St. John).
Left Nave (Chapel of St. Anthony): The heart of the basilica and home to the tomb (arca) of St. Anthony. This is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in Christendom because of the many miracles attributed to St. Anthony. You’ll see the faithful in deep contemplation and prayer. Many come with photos and notes of thanksgiving for the saint’s intercession.
- The marble reliefs on the wall tell the history and miracles of St. Anthony.
Chapel of the Blessed Luca: Next to the tomb of St. Anthony you’ll find the final resting place of his friend and colleague Luca Belludi. Luca attended the University of Padua and was a scholar. Many students come here asking for Blessed Luca to ask God tohelp them with their exams.
- The Chapel frescoes here are by Giusto de Menabuoi and are truly remarkable.
Chapel of the Black Virgin: This was he original church that was built during St. Anthony’s life and is truly a humbling spot as you think about the life of the Saint -Saints were real people like you and me with flaws and amazing graces -but God used them for service and good, which inspires faithful (and non faithful alike) to be called to action for our fellow humanity.
The Gothic altar includes a majestic statue of the Virgin Mary that is a work by French master, Renauldin Puydarient. The chapel walls are covered with frescoes from the 13th and 14th centuries.
Learn more here.
Chapel of The Reliquaries:
This is one of the highlights of the basilica. The architectural style dates to the 17th century Baroque and was the plan of sculptor-architect Filippo Parodi who also produced the church’s statues (St. Francis; Faith; Humility; Penitence; Charity; St. Bonaventure; St. Anthony in His Glory)
- in the niches you’ll find reliquaries, chalices and other precious objects
- In the central niche is a reliquary by goldsmith Giuliano da Firenze (1436
- Perhaps one of the most jaw-dropping sights in the basilica is the Incorrupt Tongue of St. Anthony on full display along with his Jawbone.
- St. Anthony was known as a golden-tongued preacher and able to convey Christ’s message with truth and empathy that made him known for his preaching.
- There is also a remnant of The True Cross in the Chapel.
We’ll I hope you’ve been blessed by this stop at St. Anthony’s Basilica.
If you are lost and needing a bit of help here is a popular prayer asking St. Anthony for intercession.
O Holy St. Anthony, gentlest of Saints, your love for God and Charity for His creatures, made you worthy, when on earth, to possess miraculous powers. Encouraged by this thought, I implore you to obtain for me (request). O gentle and loving St. Anthony, whose heart was ever full of human sympathy, whisper my petition into the ears of the sweet Infant Jesus, who loved to be folded in your arms; and the gratitude of my heart will ever be yours. Amen. *Catholic Online
Next time we’ll be heading to Tuscany and Florence…hope you’ll join us for the adventure.