Why It Matters

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Fresco of St. Anthony

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Padua, Italy

The Story

The Basilica of Sant’Anthony in Padua is one of the world’s great masterpieces of art.  Giotto, Donatello, Titian, Pietro, Antonio and Tullio Lombardo, Sansovino, Parodi, Tiepolo, Annigoni have all contributed to the beauty and majesty of this magnificent building.  One of the most ancient representations of St. Anthony can be found in this incredible setting, a fourteenth century fresco that is almost life-sized and dates back to the church’s earliest activity.

“The Saint”, Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua

Anthony, a Franciscan friar from Lisbon, died near Padua on 13 June 1231 and was proclaimed a Saint, in record time, just a year later.  Ever since, the Basilica built in Padua in his name and honor has been known to the residents of the city as “the Saint”.  Construction of this monumental church incorporated  the site of the small monastery where Anthony had lived for a time and the ancient church of Santa Maria Mater Domini where he was first buried (today’s Chapel of the Dark Madonna) and took place extremely fast.

The haste to commemorate his life indicates the place that Anthony had won in the hearts of the people and the boundless regard he was held in.  Today, his tomb in the Basilica – the Veneranda Arca –  attracts a constant flow of visitors, devotees, pilgrims and supplicants.  Famously, Anthony is the patron saint of lost things and is also known as the Matchmaker Saint.

Thanks to his enormous popularity, the Basilica is a living history of Venetian art.  Its architectural, monumental and artistic history is studded with famous names, stretching in an unbroken arch from the Middle Ages to contemporary times, from Giotto to Annigoni, with contributions from Donatello, Titian, Sansovino, and Tiepolo.

The Tomb of St. Anthony


The most ancient part of the church, the counter facade, is particularly interesting for the contrast it provides to the grandiose historical and artistic elements of the Basilica.  Here, in a niche carved into the wall, is the one of the first representations of St. Anthony which dates to 1350s.  The image is almost life-sized and, befitting his saintly status, his position is raised above the observer, making him appear physically present.  He offers a gesture of blessing, as if underlining the interaction between his representation and the faithful, while the book in his right hand symbolizes his doctrine.  The simplicity of the image makes it immediately accessible and gives it an iconic force, while also demonstrating the example of Giotto.  The positioning of this fresco, at the very entrance to the church, was no casual placement, but a way of welcoming the faithful on their arrival.

Fresco of St. Anthony (1350s)


The fresco today is in a worrying state of conservation, with immediate restoration work required to save the painting.  The process of degradation, which is already taking hold, can only be stopped with modern restoration techniques available.

The lower layers require consolidation in a process which reinforces the underpinnings of the fresco itself.   Traces of past restoration attempts must be removed, new materials applied and, as the restoration proceeds, chemical tests will indicate the appropriate techniques to ensure that the work will be preserved.  Lastly, all the holes in the paint will be filled in, restoring the legibility of the painting.

Undertaking restoration work also offers researchers the opportunity to use modern technology to search for other traces beneath the figure of St. Anthony, and the chance of finding an even older Antonian, or Franciscan, image preserved on this ancient wall.  Above all, restoration will ensure the future of this precious and fragile image which speaks to us today of an earlier world and whose enduring legend is testimony to the historical man it portrays.

Be an Angel, Join the restoration campaign for the fresco of St. Anthony.

For details of the restoration process:  Restoration_Fresco_StAnthony_details

LoveItaly is working in collaboration with:

Established in 1396 the Veneranda Arca di S. Antonio is the organisation tasked with the conservation and maintenance of the structure  belonging to the Basilica di St. Anthony of Padua and its connected buildings.  The committee is composed of five citizens of Padua, with the Rector of the Basilica and a lay member nominated by the Vatican.  http://www.arcadelsanto.org/




LoveItaly Donor Certificate plus our thanks on LoveItaly website


All Cherub benefits, plus thanks on the Museo Antoniano Facebook page, plus participation in a guided tour of the Basilica


All Angel benefits, plus thanks on the website of the Veneranda Arca


All Bronze Angel benefits, plus exclusive visit to the balustrade of the Basilica (closed to the public) or digital subscription to The Messenger (weekly magazine from the Basilica of St. Anthony, available in Italian or English)


All Silver Angel benefits, plus 1 night for 2 people at the Casa del Pellegrino, hotel adjacent to the Basilica, in Padua


All Golden Angel benefits, plus your name on the Donor Plaque in the Museo Antoniano


All Platinum Angel benefits, plus exclusive access to an event in the Basilica (to be decided together)


All Diamond Angel benefits, plus a tour of the Cupolas of the Basilica and access to the altar, plus your name on a Donor Plaque next to the fresco in the Basilica

We accept offline donations as well, here is the information for bank transfers. If you choose to send us a bank transfer, please email us a copy of the receipt so we can list you as a Donor on our website!

LoveItaly Associazione Culturale
Unicredit Banca / Roma Non Profit
Piazza Barberini n.40, 00187 – Roma
IBAN: IT45W0200803284000103456316