Hidden treasures

Donatello’s Altar in the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua

Historical Curiosities

Donatello’s Altar in the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua

When visiting the city of Padua a not-to-be-missed monument is the magnificent Basilica dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua, a Franciscan friar of Portuguese origins who lived between the 12th and 13th centuries.

The Basilica, built between 1233 and 1310, is a shrine of valuable art treasures produced by the greatest artists of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, who were invited to work in the Basilica, including the famous Tuscan sculptor Donatello.

After the commission to execute a large bronze crucifix in 1443, Donatello was also tasked by the friars to build the high altar.

The original arrangement was probably suggestive of a three-dimensional 'sacred conversation' with the six free-standing statues of the saints - Francis Anthony, Justina, Daniel, Louis and Prosdocimo – positioned around a Madonna with Child under a sort of shallow canopy, supported by eight columns or pillars and placed next to the arches of the deambulatory. The base, adorned with bas-reliefs on all sides - St. Anthony's miracles and a Christ  Entombment - was likely composed of a predella and a platform decorated with marble inlays.

With the restoration of the presbytery in 1591, the altar was taken to pieces and its various art works destined to different parts of the Basilica. Only a few of Donatello’s statues were added back to the redesigned baroque altar, especially in the crowning portion. In 1895 the altar was reconstructed by the architect Camillo Boito, who, however, created an arbitrary arrangement different from the original composition.

If you want to visit the Basilica accompanied by a knowledgeable local tourist guide, please contact us to arrange an exclusive private tour of Padua!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

Latest posts

Venice: Mars, Adam and Eve: the Doge's Palace celebrates their return

Unknown places & works

After four years of delicate restoration work, the three fifteenth-century statues by the great artist Antonio Rizzo will be exceptiona...


Romano D' Ezzellino: Why do they say ‘If you can't sleep, count sheep’?

Figures of speech

It all started in Romano d’Ezzelino in the province of Vicenza when Ezzelino da Romano, who suffered from insomnia, hired a storytell...


Chioggia: The Valley of the Seven Dead Men

Mysteries & Legends

Halloween is just around the corner: have you already got into the fascinating terrifying aura of the scariest party of the year? No ye...


Venice: Fave dei Morti: the Venetian cookies of All Souls Day

Local Traditions

As tradition dictates, every year, on the day when the deceased are commemorated (November 2), in Venice it is customary to prepare ‘...


Top posts

Padua: Why do people say ‘Rimanere in braghe di tela?’

Historical Curiosities

Have you ever wondered where the popular expression ‘Rimanere in mutande’ o ‘Rimanere in braghe di tela’ comes from? It is a wa...


Venice: The Last Supper by Veronese at the Gallerie dell'Accademia

Historical Curiosities

The twelve rooms of the Gallerie dell'Accademia host many works of art from the Veneto Region and the city of Venice made by renowned a...


Treviso: The ghost of Bianca di Collalto

Mysteries & Legends

On the night between October 31 and November 1, telling a scary ghost story is a must... We have one related to the castle of Collalto,...


Padua: Prato della Valle in Padua

Historical Curiosities

Probably only the inhabitants of Padua and a few other people know of a particular record their city is boasting about: having the larg...