Such was the popularity of Anthony that work on the basilica in Padua began immediately after his death in 1231. The site was already attracting pilgrims and it was deemed necessary to raise a proper monument. The exterior was fashioned without a precise architectural style. The elaborate mix of a Romanesque Gothic facade with an eight-domed Byzantine roof and several small belfries give it an eastern look.
St. Anthony was beatified by Pope Gregory IX less than one year after his death. Thirty-two years later the immense Basilica was completed, and the time had come to transfer the body to its new resting place. When the sarcophagus was opened, the body had turned to dust while the saint’s tongue was found miraculously intact and red in color.
Today in the Baroque Chapel of Relics, in the apse at the back of the church, you can see the actual tongue presented in a gold reliquary. Also on display are the saint’s jaw bone and vocal chords.
Text and photo by Stephen Bugno