At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Luke the Evangelist

Scientists believe Saint is buried in Padua


A modern representation of St Luke by the Russian artist Andrei Mironov
A modern representation of St Luke by the
Russian artist Andrei Mironov
The feast day of St Luke the Evangelist - la festa di San Luca - is celebrated in Padua and throughout Italy on this day every year.

Luke the Evangelist is believed to be one of the four authors of the Gospels in the New Testament. Both the Gospel according to St Luke and the book of Acts of the Apostles have been ascribed to him.

Luke is believed to have been a doctor who was also a disciple of St Paul. It has been claimed he was martyred by being hung from an olive tree, although other sources say he worked as a doctor until his death at the age of 84.

He is regarded as the patron saint of artists, physicians, surgeons, students and butchers and it is strongly believed that his body lies in the Basilica of Santa Giustina in Prato della Valle in Padua.

It is thought that Luke was a Greek physician who lived and worked in the city of Antioch in ancient Syria.

He is mentioned in some of St Paul’s Epistles and he is believed to have been with Paul in Rome near the end of his life.

The tomb of St Luke in the Basilica of Santa Giustina in Padua is thought to contain his remains apart from the skull
The tomb of St Luke in the Basilica of Santa Giustina in Padua
is thought to contain his remains apart from the skull
After Luke’s death it is believed he was buried in Thebes but his remains were later transferred to Constantin- ople.

They are thought to have been bought by a Serb who later sold them on to the Venetian Republic. The remains were buried in Padua in a lead coffin inside a marble sarcophagus in 1172.

In 1992 the Greek Orthodox Church requested the return of ‘a significant fragment’ of the remains of St Luke so they could be placed in his tomb at Thebes.

This led to a detailed scientific examination of the remains buried in Padua. Inside the lead coffin within the sarcophagus in the Basilica, scientists found a skeleton without a skull of a man aged between 70 and 84 who was about five feet four inches tall. Tests confirmed that they were the remains of an individual of Syrian descent who died between 416 BC and AD72.

The imposing Basilica of Santa Giustina in Padua, where St Luke's tomb is contained
The imposing Basilica of Santa Giustina in Padua,
where St Luke's tomb is contained
The remains also fitted anatomically with a skull being kept in a church in Prague, which was claimed to be that of St Luke.

The Bishop of Padua ordered that the rib of Saint Luke that was closest to his heart should be sent to Greece to be kept in his tomb in Thebes.

The skull of Saint Luke is still in St Vitus Cathedral in Prague, but the rest of his body remains in Padua.

Travel tip:

The tomb of St Luke is housed in the splendour of the Basilica of Santa Giustina, which is at the south east corner of Prato della Valle, one of the principal squares in Padua. Admission to the Basilica is free and it is open daily from 7.30 am until noon and from 3 pm until 6.30 pm (7.30 pm on Sundays).

Giotto's beautiful frescoes adorn the walls of the  Scrovegni Chapel in Padua
Giotto's beautiful frescoes adorn the walls of the
Scrovegni Chapel in Padua
Travel tip:

Padua in the Veneto is one of the most important centres for art in Italy and home to the country’s second oldest university. Padua has become acknowledged as the birthplace of modern art because of the Scrovegni Chapel, the inside of which is covered with frescoes by Giotto, an artistic genius who was the first to paint people with realistic facial expressions showing emotion. His scenes depicting the lives of Mary and Joseph, painted between 1303 and 1305, are considered his greatest achievement and one of the world’s most important works of art. At Palazzo Bo, where Padua’s university was founded in 1222, you can still see the original lectern used by Galileo and the world’s first anatomy theatre, where dissections were secretly carried out from 1594.

More reading:


Santa Giustina - murdered in Roman purge of Christians

The genius of the artist Giotto di Bondone

Padua's Saint Anthony - patron saint of the lost



(Photo of St Luke portrait by Andrei Mironov CC BY-SA 4.0)
(Photo of St Luke's tomb by Didier Descouens CC BY-SA 4.0)
(Photo of interior of the Scrovegni Chapel by Rastaman3000 CC BY-SA 3.0)

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