13 June 2016

Saint Anthony of Padua

Pilgrims honour the saint famous for his miracles

Photo of the Basilica di Sant'Antonio
The Basilica di Sant'Antonio in Padua
The feast of Saint Anthony of Padua (Sant’Antonio da Padova) will be celebrated  by thousands of pilgrims visiting the northern Italian city today.

Special services will be held in the Basilica di Sant’Antonio and a statue of the saint will be carried through the streets of Padua.

Over the next few days pilgrims from all over the world will visit the Basilica, to see the saint’s tomb and relics.

Anthony was born in Portugal where he became a Catholic priest and a friar of the Franciscan order. He died on 13 June, 1231 in Padova and was declared a saint by the Vatican a year after his death, which is considered a remarkably short space of time.

Anthony is one of the most loved of all the saints and his name is regularly invoked by Italians to help them recover lost items.

It is estimated that about five million pilgrims visit the Basilica every year in order to file past and touch the tomb of the Franciscan monk, who became famous for his miracles, particularly relating to lost people or things.

The magnificent basilica in Piazza del Santo is an architectural masterpiece created between the 13th and 14th centuries, but it was later enriched with works of art by masters such as Titian, Tiepolo and the sculptor Donatello.

Saint Anthony’s Basilica is an imposing sight in Padova’s skyline even from a distance as it has seven domes around a cupola, two campanili (towers) and tapering spires like the minarets of a mosque.

Inside, the church is in the plan of a Latin cross with a nave and aisles in the gothic tradition. The Saint’s body lies in a marble tomb in the area known as the Chapel of the Tomb in the left transept.

The walls around the tomb are decorated with large 16th century marble reliefs that depict scenes from Saint Anthony’s life. These are overshadowed by the impressive amount of offerings and photographs on display from people wishing to give thanks after surviving car crashes or serious illnesses thanks to what they believe was the intervention of Sant’Antonio.

In a separate chapel, visitors can see relics of Saint Anthony and other important objects, such as a tunic believed to have been worn by the saint.

Photo of the Scrovegni Chapel
The Scrovegni Chapel is home to magnificent
frescoes by Giotto
Travel tip:

Padova in the Veneto is also one of the most important centres for art in Italy and home to the country’s second oldest university. Padova has become acknowledged as the birthplace of modern art because it is home to the Scrovegni Chapel, the inside of which is covered with frescoes by Giotto, a 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 acknowledged as his greatest achievement and are one of the world’s most important works of art. At Palazzo Bò, Padova’s university 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.

Travel tip:

The enormous Basilica di Sant’Antonio da Padova, or Basilica del Santo as it is known to local people, is one of the most important places of Christian worship in the world. To reach it from the railway station in Piazzale Stazione, take the tram and get off at the stop called simply, Santo. Buses also run between the station and the Basilica. If you are on foot, walk down Corso del Popolo, Corso Garibaldi, Via Eremitani, Via Zabarella and Via del Santo. The Basilica is open from 06.20 to 19.00 in the winter and 06.20 to 19.45 in the summer. Admission is free.


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