Project Description

Chapel of the Ark of Saint Anthony
Basilica of Saint Anthony, Padua

project
restoration of the Chapel of the Ark of Saint Anthony

location
Basilica of Saint Anthony, Padua

project director
Lamberto Brisighella per la Veneranda Arca di Sant’Antonio

contractor
Sansovino s.n.c., Venezia

funding
Fondazione Ca.Ri.Pa.Ro.;
Venetian Heritage

start date
April 2008

end date
May 2009

cost
€ 180.000,00

The chapel is situated off the left aisle of the basilica. Today’s chapel is the result of a radical reconstruction that embraced the entire 16th century. Work on the decorative elements ended only in the 17th century, with further contributions and enhancements continuing throughout the 1700s. Most art historians attribute the design to Tullio Lombardo. The work was overseen by the proto Giovanni Minello, assisted by his son Antonio and by other sculptors trained by the Lombardos. The elder Minello directed the works for more than twenty years (1500- 1521) and was succeeded by Giovanni Maria Falconetto, who oversaw the completion of the façade and the magnificent gilded stucco vault. Its design comes from one of the cartoons created by Raphael’s prolific Roman workshop. The execution of the nine high reliefs representing the miracles of the Saint took more than seventy years: from 1501 when the reliefs of The Miracle of the Child and The Miracle of the Reattached Leg were commissioned to Antonio and Tullio Lombardo respectively, to 1577, when Gerolamo Campagna completed the relief of The Resuscitation of the Murdered Man begun by his teacher Danese Cattaneo in 1572. Between 1593 and 1594 Tiziano Aspetti gave the altar containing the tomb or shrine of the saint its present shape.
There are four angels and double- branched candlesticks, also in bronze, on the balustrade. The tabernacle and the antependium enriched the altar in 1742. Between the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century, two solid silver candelabras made by the Venetian G. Balbi completed the rich decorative arrangement of the chapel. The candelabras stand on two marble bases, one of them by Filippo Parodi (1689), the other by Orazio Marinali (1712). The restoration, funded by the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Padova e Rovigo and Venetian Heritage, concerns the whole Chapel of the Saint (excepted the ceiling and the façade, which had been restored in 1999-2000), the “heart” of the Basilica, visited by thousands of pilgrims every day.
The high reliefs were in a critical state of conservation due to the humidity of the north-facing external wall. In addition to centuries of candle smoke, previous inappropriate treatments and the influx of over four million pilgrims visiting the Chapel annually to pay homage to the thaumaturgic saint had caused widespread decay. Work was also structural: since the 14th century the north-facing Chapel has had conservation problems, which partly explain why the original fresco decorations were replaced with marbles and bronzes in the 16th century. This is the reason why the restoration started from external walls, the high-reliefs and the altar. It was necessary to move the corpse of the Saint to another location.