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The Veneto: Padua and Verona              
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il Santo
Piazza del Santo

Built by Franciscans to house the tomb of Saint Anthony of Padua, the order's second saint after their founder, this church became their second most important after the founder's church at Assisi. Anthony, born in Lisbon and baptised Ferdinand, was canonised by Pope Gregory IX on 30th May 1232, a year after his death and construction here began later the same year. When he had fallen ill in Camposampiero, outside Padua, he had asked to be brought to Santa Maria Mater Domini to die. Dying on the way back, he had duly been brought to and buried in this small church which probably dated from the late 12th century. This church was incorporated into the present basilica as the Cappella della Madonna Mora (Chapel of the Dark Madonna). Work on the basilica was completed around 1350, and his body was transferred to the presbytery here on 8th April 1263, moving to its present location in 1310. There were many modifications to the church, from the rebuilding needed following the collapse of a campanile struck by lightening in April or May 1394 to the 1449 construction of the twin campanili, which left the church looking much as we see it today, with repairs following fires in 1567 and on the 29th of March1749, the latter destroying a large part of the roof and several paintings. What is described as 'an unfortunate campaign of redecoration' was undertaken in 1894.

Brick with mostly gothic detailing, using white marble. The cluster of five cupolas is striking, with the central one being conical, with two towers behind and two minarets. In plan the five domes form a cross. The facade has four deeply recessed arches with the door in the middle topped by a 1940 copy by Nicola Lochoff of Mantegna's lunette fresco of 1452 of The Monogram of Christ with Saints Anthony and Bernardino. The original is now in the museum here (see above). Above the lunette is a 1940 copy by Napoleone Martinuzzi of a statue of Saint Anthony, the original by Rinaldino of France is in the museum here too. Above is a loggia of 17 columns topped by a pediment with a rose window flanked by two mullioned windows.

More unmixed gothic in style than the exterior. A looming wide nave is separated from its aisles by chunky square brick columns clustered around with 16th century memorials of nobles and a few fresco panels of the Virgin and Child. The first two pillars even have altars on them, facing the entrance. The one on the left has the soppy Madonna del Pilaster, a mid-14th-century fresco by Stefano da Ferrara (the saints and angels are later additions. Another side of this column has a fresco of Saint Anthony in the Walnut Tree by Pietro Annigoni. The ceiling is a sequence of domes.
The jazzy third chapel on the right is Chapel of the Holy Sacrament (Cappella del Santissimo Sacramento, also known as Cappella Gattamelata), sometimes reserved for prayer. It houses the tomb of Gattamelata, whose famous equestrian statue is outside, and of his son Giannantonio. The bronze tabernacle here is by Girolamo Campagna. The arched niche behind contains a mosaic representing The Holy Spirit with rays of light descending, made by Lodovico Pogliaghi between 1927–36.
The forth bay on the left has the tomb of Antonio Roselli by Pietro Lombardo made between 1464 and 1467 and said to have been inspired by the tomb of Leonardo Bruni by Bernardo Rossellino in Santa Croce in Florence.

For the now-enclosed choir (not freely accessible) (see photo below right) Donatello made the Santo Altarpiece from 1446-9, after he was brought to Padua to make the Gattamelatta equestrian statue, staying for ten years. It is topped by a bronze Crucifix, which was originally over the doorway in the choir screen, along with the statues of the Virgin and Child and six saints: Anthony, Francis, Prosdocimo, Giustina, Louis and Daniel. There are also twenty-one bronze reliefs, consisting of twelve musical angels, the four Evangelists’ symbols (all quite small) and four larger partly-gilded bronze reliefs of The Miracles of Saint Anthony (The Ass of Rimini (see below), The Speaking Child, The Irascible Son and The Miser’s Heart) and a Dead Christ Supported by Angels. Behind is the polychromed limestone relief The Entombment of Christ, which has lead a fraught life, including use as a lintel and gilding in the 18th century, but is soon to undergo restoration. This high altar was dismembered in 1579, and speculatively rebuilt in 1895 by Camillo Boito, there have been many theories (around sixteen so far) and arguments since, as no record remains of its original arrangement, excepting a partial description by Venetian Marcantonio Michiel from 1520.

The cast court of the Victoria and  Albert Museum in London has many casts of the Santo's Donatello Altarpiece, so it's easier to see them there than here. These include twelve angel panels, a panel of The Dead Christ , four panels of The Miracles of Saint Anthony and a figure of Saint Francis.

The transept is formed of two large chapels:
On the right is the large Chapel of San Giacomo (or San Felice) (see below right). Opposite is what might be described as the spiritual heart of the basilica - St Anthony's Chapel (see less below right).
Through an arch to the right of Saint Anthony's chapel is the
Cappella della Madonna Mora, all that remains of the earlier church of Santa Maria Mater Domini. It is so named because the statue above the altar is of the Virgin with dark hair. It is the work of  by Rinaldino di Puy-l'Evéque and dates from 1396. Rinaldino also being responsible for the Saint Anthony over the Santo's door. Behind the statue is a fresco depicting The Glorification of the Virgin between prophets and angels previously thought to be by a 'disciple' of Altichiero but identified in 2015 as by Giotto. Frescoes here also include a very damaged Jesus Leaving his Mother by Giusto de Menabuoi.
Off of this chapel to the left is the highlight Capella dei Santi Filippo e Giacomo e del Beato Luca Belludi (see photo right) the last named being Saint Anthony's companion, whose name was added to the chapel's dedication after his beatification in 1910. He is buried here, although his body is believed to have been put in Anthony's original bier, with frescoes of around 1382 by Giusto de' Menabuoi and his studio. The work was commissioned by brothers Manfredo and Naimerio Conti, after whom the chapel is also sometimes named. The frescoes depict scenes from the lives of Saints Philip, James the Younger and the Elder and of Luke Belludi and were restored in 1988. The most famous panel is probably on the left wall of the apse, where Saint Anthony appears to the Blessed Luke, with it's impressive panorama of Padua, although all the scenes here have impressive architecture. The weird toppling tower scene on the right depicts a merchant miraculously freed from a tower by Saint James the Great.
The Chapels in the Ambulatory are all frescoed, mostly in the early 20th century, the third and fourth on the left and second and third on the right in imitation gothic style. Through an arch in the centre of the ambulatory is the 17th century Reliquary Chapel, designed by Filippo Parodi, a pupil of Bernini, on the site of a chapel dedicated to Saint Francis. It has the Saint Anthony chin reliquary as well as the better-known tongue one (in the centre of the photo right). A finger and some hair is to be found here too, along with a habit, parchments and coffins. It is not for the faint-hearted or the baroque-averse.
The first chapel on the right in the ambulatory, the Cappella di Santa Caterina, just past the entrance to the sacristy, has three paintings by Pietro Annigoni inside, and frescoes in the underside of the arch of eight saints attributed to Giotto, or at least his workshop. They have been much repainted, especially the faces. This chapel probably originally belonged to the Scrovegni family - their coat of arms, a blue sow on an ochre background, is still visible painted on the entrance arch - possibly a commission by Enrico Scrovegni from before the Arena Chapel commission.
The chapter house, beyond the sacristy through the door to the right of this last chapel, has fragmentary frescoes also attributed to Giotto, at least partially, found under plaster and whitewash in the mid-19th and early-20th centuries. They depict Saints and Prophets in fictive niches, part of a Crucifixion and a Stigmatization of Saint Francis. It is thought that, having been brought here by the Franciscans after his work at Assisi, it was whilst working here that he met Enrico Scrovegni, which led to his commission to decorate Scrovegni's Arena Chapel
To the right of the sacristy door is the short passageway between the church and the Cloister of the Magnolias. It has, on the left, the tomb of Federico Lavellongo, with sculpture by Giovanni de Santi and a fresco in the lunette of The Virgin and Saints Worshipped by Lavallongo attributed to Altichiero. Opposite is a tomb with a fresco of the Coronation of the Virgin by Giusto de'Menabuoi (see photo below).

Lost art
A panel from a predella depicting The Descent of Christ into Limbo by Jacopo Bellini is, it has been suggested, from the predella of an altarpiece that was in the Gattamelata Chapel here, signed by Jacopo along with his sons Gentile and Giovanni in 1459 or 1460. It is now in the Eremitani Civic Museum. There are other predella panels in Ferrara (an Adoration of the Magi possibly by Giovanni, based on designs by Jacopo) and the Correr in Venice (a Crucifixion). A left-hand main-register panel of Saints Anthony Abbot and Bernardino in Washington may be from the same altarpiece.
The walls of Saint Anthony's Chapel were once covered in a cycle of frescoes, attributed to Stefano da Ferrara, showing scenes from the saint's life and his miracles. It is lost.

The Anthonian Museum

In the cloister of the Blessed Luca Belludi, named for Saint Anthony's companion. Contents include the lunette fresco by Mantegna for the Basilica’s doorway and seven 18th century altarpieces, mostly martyrdoms, by Giacomo Ceruti, Giambattista Tiepolo (The Martyrdom of Saint Agatha, 1735/6), Antonio Ballestra, Giambattista Pittoni, Pietro Antonio Rotari, Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini, and Giambattista Piazzetta, commissioned for the ambulatory chapels.
It begins with a bewildering maze of glass cases containing votive plaques and offerings and too much weird stuff for a non-believer to comprehend. This is followed by a permanent exhibition called ‘Donatello in the Basilica’ established in 2015. It has photos, plaster casts and information panels about the works Donatello made for the Santo, but which they won't let you get close enough to see properly in the church. 
But it's in the un-signposted-to upstairs gallery that the best stuff is displayed. There are sweet fresco fragments, including the lunette and altarpieces just mentioned. Also a Carpaccio Virgin and Saints altarpiece on long-time loan. Painted for the convent of San Francesco di Pirano, it was looted by the Nazis and eventually returned here. The Santo website says that the original altar that it was taken from has been readied for its return since at least 2000. A Titian sinopia from the scuola next door is so faint as to defy comprehension. There are robes and ecclesiastical silver up here too.

Opening times
Weekdays 6.20am - 6.45pm
Easter to end of October 6.20am - 7.45pm
Saturdays and Sundays 6.20am - 7.45pm

Tuesday to Friday 9.00-1.00
Saturday and Sunday 9.00-1.00, 2.00-6.00

Oratorio and Scuola (see below)
April - September 9.00-12.30, 2.30-7.00
October-March 9.00-12.30, 2.30-5.00
€3.00 each or €6 for both

The Courtyard
in front of the church, which was once used as a cemetery, has Donatello's famous bronze equestrian statue of 1447-50 (see right) of  Erasmo da Narni, known as Gattamelata (the honeyed cat, sometimes interpreted as calico cat or speckled cat) the Venetian condottiere who became Podestà in Padua in 1437. He had lead Venice's conquest of Padua. The nickname is said to derive from his mother's name, she being called Melania Gattelli). The statue was commissioned by his wife, Giacoma da Leonessa, and is famed as the first equestrian statue cast in bronze in Italy since antiquity. The tall plinth, also the work of Donatello, has two doors, one open and one ajar, symbolic of the doors to the underworld. Above are two reliefs, on one there are two putti pointing to the coat of arms of the deceased, on the other two angels with armour. The badly weathered originals are now in the Santo Museum, having been replaced with copies in the 19th century.
Update September 2023 The statue is
undergoing restoration work and is covered in scaffolding

Along the south side of this courtyard are...

St Anthony's Chapel

The saint's body was moved often, from it's original resting place in Santa Maria Mater Domini, which became the Cappella della Madonna Mora here, then during the various stages of rebuilding was moved to the high altar, possibly, and to a marble sarcophagus on columns, and finally to this chapel in the north transept in 1350.
It is not known why it was decided to make the tomb accessible to all, and not buried in a crypt visitable only by a select few, as at Assisi. On April 8th 1263 the tomb was opened in the presence of Saint Bonaventura. His body had decomposed but Anthony's tongue was found to be intact, 'rubicond and beautiful', and so the miraculously preserved organ was removed and placed in a reliquary still kept in the reliquary chapel here.
The original gothic chapel was completely rebuilt in renaissance style in the 16th century This chapel's screen of red marble columns is now to be found supporting the portico of the church of Santa Maria dei Servi. The previous structure is said to have been similar to the chapel of San Giacomo opposite, with a five-bay arcade with statues in niches above. It had a now-lost fresco cycle attributed to Stefano da Ferrara depicting, amongst other things, four miracles and the death of St Anthony. There are now bas-reliefs of the life of the saint by Antonio Minello, Jacopo Sansovino (Resurrection of a Drowned Girl and Saint Anthony Resuscitates a Drowned Boy), Tulio Lombardo (The Miracle of the Usurer and Saint Anthony Reattaches the Foot of a Young Man.) These four are the 4th to 7th of the panels. The 9th is Saint Anthony Makes the Newborn Baby Speak in Order to Attest his Mother's Honesty by Antonio Lombardo, the brother of Tulio.

The Chapel of San Giacomo

Bonifacio Lupi, a condottieri, relative of the Carrara and a guelf exile from Parma, had hoped to be buried in the baptistery in Florence. When this request was refused he commissioned this chapel to be built. But documents recently discovered show that it was initially planned as a resting place for his grandfather, Guglielmino Rossi, and his uncles Rolando, Pietro and Marsilio. The sarcophagus on the left contains their remains. Andriolo di Santi was employed to construct a chapel imitating the then-gothic appearance of Saint Anthony's chapel opposite. Work began in February 1372, and went on until December 1375 when, following Andriolo's death, the work was completed by his son. Altichiero worked on the frescoes from 1377-1379. Bonifacio himself had initiated the commission in 1372 but his wife Caterina supervised from October 1374 to July 1375. Her portrait is said to appear several times in the frescoes, but some controversy surrounds this assertion.
The lower register of the back wall  is dedicated to the Life of Christ, with the Crucifixion in the centre (see above), the Annunciation in spandrels in the far corners, and the Entombment and Resurrection in lunettes above the two flanking tombs. Saints with Franciscan and Paduan connections are depicted in eight medallions in spandrels on the back wall and on the inner façade. Doubts as to how much of the work here and in the Oratorio di San Giorgio was actually done by Altichiero himself have been expressed. That these works were made in collaboration with fellow Veronese Jacopo D’Avanzi is mostly accepted, but the division between them is constantly argued. The most recent scholarship gives them to Altichiero solely, but with a different hand detected, especially in five of the eight lunettes.
Scenes from the life of St James of Compostella take up the rest of chapel, beginning in the upper lunettes on the east wall and wrapping around the west and south walls to end beneath their starting point on the lower tier. The choice of scenes is a little eccentric, with the family thought to be responsible for choosing episodes from the saint's life involving his persecution by the wicked Queen Lupa, who later converted and had her palace converted into a church. The similarity between her name and theirs is thus celebrated, along with her and they having endowing foundations dedicated to St James. Portraits of family members, their allies, such as the ruling Carrara family, and friends like Petrarch and Lombardo della Seta, his secretary, appear in some scenes too. There are also many representation of wolves (lupi) to be found around - on the façade, the tomb, the ceiling, the two lecterns and on the celebrant's vestments.
An altar here, dating to 1503, contained relics of Saint Felix, giving the chapel its changed name in the early 16th century, until it was demolished in 1966.

A photograph showing the Baroque
altar of 1651-8 by Mattia Carneris, before it was
replaced by the reconstruction
of Donatello's altarpiece in 1895 by Camillo Boito.

The Oratorio di San Giorgio (left) and The Scuola del Santo (right)


Oratorio di San Giorgio

Built in 1376 as a free-standing funerary chapel by Raimondino Lupi, although his tomb is now reduced to fragments. The gothic style brick façade has three bas-reliefs - Saint George and the Dragon under a canopy in the
centre, with heraldic designs in the left and right panels.


The oratory is a small aisleless barrel-vaulted space, plainly wood-panelled below and gorgeously frescoed above. The frescoes are the work of Altichiero da Zevio, and Jacopo D'Avanzo, with Sebeto da Verona. Following Altichiero's work for Bonifacio Lupi in the San Giacomo Chapel in the Santo in the 1370s, this time it was for Bonifacio's uncle Raimondino who commissioned the work, although by the time of completion in 1384 Raimondino had died and Bonifacio was supervising. 

The Crucifixion scene behind the altar (see left) has the artist's characteristically fine  horse bottoms, hats and pony tails with some very Giotto-like expressions and grieving angels; and a Coronation of the Virgin in the lunette above.

The entrance wall (see right) has an Annunciation, two Adorations, the Flight into Egypt and the Presentation at the Temple.

The left-hand wall is the life of Saint George, the right-hand Saint Catherine above and Saint Lucy below. The ceiling roundels have The Four Evangelists over
the altar, with The Doctors of the Church and Prophets over the nave, against a blue sky with a pattern of gold stars. The frescoes were covered in whitewash during the Napoleonic era and uncovered in 1837, which no doubt explains their excellent state of preservation.


Scuola del Santo

The Scuola is the home of the Brothers of Saint Anthony, a lay confraternity founded just after the saint's death and still active. During the 13th century the Brothers met in the Sala del Capitolo and then the Cappella della Madonna Mora.  The church on the ground floor was built between 1427 and 1431 and the meeting room upstairs in 1504. The small building linking the Scuola and the Oratory was built in 1736 by architect Giovanni Gloria, with an impressive staircase up to the meeting room.

The small church downstairs (see photo below right, by Robert Hlavatý) has a high altar taken from the demolished church of San Biagio, above which is a Virgin and Child with Saints Benedict and Jerome by Padovanino.
The chapter room upstairs (see right) has fifteen frescos and three canvases of the life of Saint Anthony with three works of domestic strife by Titian, executed in 1511 when he was in his early 20s, which are his earliest documented and dated works to survive. They show The Miracle of the Speaking Babe (see below) - a woman in 13th-century Ferrara had been accused of adultery and when Saint Anthony granted speech to her newborn child it revealed its paternity and thereby refuted the accusations. This was the first and largest of his frescoes. Two smaller ones The Miracle of the Repentant Son - Saint Anthony healing a youth who had cut off his own foot in repentance at having kicked his mother; and The Miracle of the Jealous Husband featuring the restoring to life a wife killed by her husband. There are thirteen more frescoes showing more miracles of Saint Anthony by Domenico Campagnola, Bartolomeo Montagna and Titian's brother Francesco Vecellio. The small grisaille panel at ground level behind glass is controversially attributed to Titian too.




A photograph taken before 1912.


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