The Basilica of St Anthony is an impressive building central to the identity and community of Padua. The Basilica attracts millions of pilgrims and tourists alike every year. Objects pertaining to Il Santo (The Saint), as St Anthony is known in Padua, permeate the city, including the dolce di sant'antonio, a cake made of puff pastry, apricot jam, and almonds, which is derived from the religious community's tradition of distributing bread to the poor.
The Basilica is home to many significant artworks, including the Renaissance Chapel of St Anthony, the Chapel of the Black Madonna, the Chapel of Blessed Luke, the Chapel of Relics, and main altar and the presbytery with four bronze statues by Tiziano Aspetti. The main claim to fame and attraction points for visitors are the saint's tomb and Chapel of Relics.
Frescoes by Altichiero da Zevio in the St. James Chapel; Public Domain via Wikimedia
St Anthony of Padua was originally buried in Santa Maria Mater Domini in 1231, but was transferred to the Basilica in 1263. When the saint's coffin was opened, his tongue was found to be incorrupt and was removed for veneration by the religious community. In 1981, the saint's tomb was opened again for the 750th anniversary of the saint's death. The tongue and other relics are on display in the Chapel of Relics.
The chapel of the relics, by the sculptor Filippo Parodi; image by Didier Descouens via Wikimedia
The Chapel of Relics was designed by Filippo Parodi in the 17th century. Upon entering the chapel, certain items recovered from the saint's tomb in 1981 are on display. These include: a crimson mantel, seals of the 1263 recognition, four coins from Verona, 10 white rings and 50 black rings (probably from a rosary), two wooden coffins which contained the saint's remains, a tombstone inscribed with the saint's death, the saint's cassock, and cloths that originally covered the saint's coffin.
In the dramatic large central case, 24 different relics are on display surrounded by elaborate gold ornamentation. There are too many relics to list here individually (they may be seen in the photo from the church guide below), but the most significant to the Basilica and religious community is the 'Incorrupt Tongue of St Anthony' along with his jawbone and larynx cartilage. The tongue is said to have been discovered in his tomb intact and without decay and is considered to be a miracle representation of the saint's oratorical and evangelical activities during his life.
List of 24 relics contained in the Chapel of Relics
At the end of the tour is a gift shop and interesting pharmacy. The pharmacy of St Anthony contains almost every type of herb, teas and infusions, and homoeopathic concoctions one could desire.
As a significant place of worship and popular tourist destination, the interaction of visitors with the space is strictly controlled. Visitors follow a queue through the saint's tomb and chapels. Photography inside the basilica is prohibited. Silence must be maintained and modest dress is required.