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St. Anthony Statues

St. Anthony was born, Fernando Martins de Belhoes in Lisbon Portugal in 1195 to a wealthy family. He had a good education, studying scripture and Latin, and entered the St. Augustinian Abbey of St. Vincent when he was 15 against his family’s wishes. He didn’t get the solitude he longed for so he started traveling and went to Italy where he entered a Franciscan abbey. He joined the Franciscan order in 1220 and became the most famous follower of St. Francis. He became known as a great orator and scholar and was entreated by the local people to miraculously find lost items. He had a vision of baby Jesus, it is said because of his love of Jesus and emulation of Jesus’ life, and is most often pictured holding a child. A famous St. Anthony statue is in Lisbon, in a chapel of the Church of Saint Roch, one of the earliest Jesuit church, honoring his scholarship.


In 1752 a blind Portuguese nobleman in Goa, India was being carried when his bearers stopped to rest next to a small St. Anthony statue.  It was raining and the statue was in the elements. The nobleman prayed to the statue to restore his sight and offered to build a chapel so his statue could be housed. His sight was restored and he built the chapel with a life size statue which is still there today. St. Anthony is also revered in Tamil Nadu, a state in South India, as a miracle worker, by people of all religions.


St. Anthony is always depicted as a Franciscan monk, usually holding a child who represents baby Jesus. There is a St. Anthony statue in every type of material including plaster, fiberglass, polymer, stone, pewter, bronze and more. They also come in every size from a tiny for your desk or window sill to life size and bigger. The styles of art also vary from very simple figures, almost as if a child had made them, to very sophisticated art, especially from Fontanini, in Tuscany, Italy, where religious statues have been made for four generations by the same family.


It was an unusual combination for a Franciscan Friar to be so learned and such a good speaker. St. Francis cautioned St. Anthony about taking pride in his knowledge, and remembering his vow of poverty.  A St. Anthony statue also has a humble atmosphere to remind of Jesus’ life.


Sailors and travelers pray to St. Anthony to protect them on their way. Some biographers say a St. Anthony statue was placed in the bow of a sailing ship for the whole crew to pray to when the weather got bad or they were lost. He is also invoked when someone has lost something and wants it back. He is famous for finding lost things because there are many stories from his own life where he made lost things return. He was made a saint in 1232 by Pope Gregory IX only one year after his death at 36. He was a rare combination of learning and humility which inspires people today.



This article was published on Thursday 07 January, 2010.

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