Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The Holy Saint of Padua

We all know about the holy man of Padua, don't we?
The trouble is knowing which one; there isn't only one major saint in Padua, but at least four, possibly five, plus some minor contenders. I think some of you will be as surprised at what follows as I was when I stumbled across these great bones.

This is not the great basilica in Padua, but the Benedictine church of St Giustina, just off the Prato, as you can see. St Giustina is buried here under the high altar, a fine woman and martyr, but she isn't one of the big names.

Her church is a pleasing, if severe, neo-classical building inside.
The interest lies in the two transepts to right and left ahead.

Below you will see the tomb of nobody less than St Luke!

And, in the opposite transept, the comparatively neglected
tomb of St Matthias (I expect they drew lots).

And, buried away down a little passage behind St Matthias, and down some stairs, you will find St Prosdocimus, much venerated in the East, but rather unknown in the West:

In the basilica of St Anthony, opposite the great man's tomb, another magnificent shrine, but completely unlabelled. There is a statue of a saint with a pilgrim's staff, resembling St James (but without cockle shell) that might be a clue, but otherwise, I'm stumped.

And here is the rather over-the-top tomb of the man everyone knows is in Padua, St Anthony, for whom I was named (my middle name, I mean).
But be honest, did you know all these other folk were in Padua? St Anthony is a great saint, no doubt, but I am not quite comfortable that he appears to overshadow an Apostle and an Evangelist!


Gregor said...

The tomb of St Luke certainly could need a little more attention, it looks rather neglected and bare.

Something can't be right about St Matthias, though. As everyone (well, at least in Germany ;) ) knows, his tomb is in the abbey of St Matthias in Trier.

John F H H said...

According to the virtual tour of the basilica at
This is the chapel of St James (Altichieri) [whatever that may mean - ahh-see below] and the online guide helpfully has this pop-up description:
Following the right-hand nave, you reach the transept which ends in the Chapel of St. James, paid for by Bonifacio Lupi, the Marquis of Soragna (Parma) who held important diplomatic and military responsibilities at the court of the Carraresi family of Padua.

This elegant and spacious Gothic area was completed in the 1370s by one of the most important Venetian sculptors and architects of the day, Andriolo de Santi. The chapel's entrance has five tri-lobed arches.

The chapel's entrance has five tri-lobed arches.

The Crucifixion.
The visitor is immediately enveloped by the warm environment inspired by the marble and frescoes, covering every surface of the chapel and whose restoration was finished in 2000. One's gaze immediately gravitates towards the dramatic and majestic Crucifixion, a masterpiece by Altichiero da Zevio (Verona) the greatest Italian painter from the second half of the fourteenth century who finished this work in the 1370s, before the chapel was completed.

The Story of St. James. - The eight windows of the chapel and the partition present a few moments of the life of St. James, taken from the Legenda anctorum o aurea by Jacopo da Varazze (1255?). This was a religious text which was widely disseminated for devotional purposes and concerned itself with traditions and legends which influenced many artists.

The apostle is St James the Great (St. John's brother) whose shrine is Santiago de Compostella (Galizia/Spain), one of the most important destinations of a Christian pilgrimage, especially in the X-XV centuries. The artist is Altichiero da Zevio, with the collaboration of Jacopo Avanzi, from Bologna, whose hand in the fresco is not always identifiable.

Moving towards the ambulatory there is an exit on the right which leads to the Magnolia Courtyard and further ahead, the entrance to the Sacristy; on the left however, there is the Presbytery/choir stalls area. After the Sacristy you come to the first chapel of the ambulatory.

I notice it does not say who lies within the tomb/shrine (a tactful omission out of regard for Compostella??) but Baring Gould, in his Lives of the Saints lists the following places with relics of St.James the Great:
Compostella - body
Toulouse - body
Monte Grigniano - body
Zibili, near Milan - body
St.George, Venice - head
Ss.Philip & James, Venice - head
Church of the Apostles,Rome - skull, blood
Valentina on the Po - head
Amalfi - head (poss.St.Jas.the Less)
S.Vast in Artois - head
Pisoja - part of head
Troyes - arm
Monte-regale, Sicily - arm
Messina - finger
Pavia - right arm
S.Paolo fuori Muri, Rome - arm
Andechs, Bavaria - arm-bones
Torcelli - right arm
Liege - arm, ex-Compostella
S.Panthaleon, Cologne - jaw
Reading,St.James - hand, ex Reading Abbey
Escurial - bones
S.Loup, S.Martin-es-Aires - arm-bone
Nevers - bone
Christ-aux-Reliques, Nolay - arm-bone
Toulouse - other assorted bones.

B-G also says in art he is always depicted from the 13thcent on with a staff, sometimes also with a hat adorned with sacallop-shells.

Poor St.James.

John U.K.

John F H H said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

When I was in Padua last year the glizty Renaissance shrine of St Anthony was being restored and the unlabelled shrine opposite was being used as his temporary abode... I'm not sure it houses any relics, tho' could be wrong.

The liturgy at the basilica was slovenly and a bit depressing in style, in contrast to the magnificence of it's surroundings. No sign of a TLM. Oh well, I'm sure the great saint is interceding for its restoration there as I write.

(2nd Verona Anon.)

Ben said...

Don't forget St. Leopoldo Mandic.
His grave also is in Padova, and he was a spiritual son of St. Anthony.
San Leopoldo, prega per noi!

Delia said...

According to my TCI guide, the south transept contains the chapel of San Iacopo (i.e., St James) or of San Felice. Not sure who San Felice is, but perhaps he's the guy in the tomb?

Anonymous said...

I am reasonably confident of the authenticity of St Luke's tomb, his relics having been taken to Padua from Greece before the Turkish invasion (so some time after St Anthony). I understand that when the tomb was opened, the skeleton was found to be headless, but a skull kept elsewhere (I forget where) and independently ascribed to Luke was found to match the skeleton. Regarding St Matthias, I am less sure.
I don't think any claim is made nowadays that the Chapel of St James in the Basilica of St Anthony holds any relics of the Apostle. It was certainly the temporary rersting place of Il Santo, at the reposition of whose remains I was privileged to be present early this year.