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Thursday, June 6, 2013

June 13th - For the Upcoming Feast of St. Anthony of Padua - His Face

His Face

Compare the ancient "portrait", on the left, frescoed in the Basilica presbytery, and the scientific reconstruction of his face, on the right, to see immediately a marked difference. How can this be explained?
Anonymous, the so-called 'True image (or portrait)' of St. Anthony, 14th cent. C. Cremesini, bust reconstructing St. Anthony's face based on the recognition of 1981.
Art, over the centuries, has imposed very different looks. We cannot expect historical objectivity from artists. They make interpretations conditioned by the sensibilities of the era, from the prevalent hagiographic trend, to the public's request.

Rather than representing the saint in his earthly form, in his historical context, they tend to portray him in his present status as a resident of heaven, as one who has reached his heavenly destination, as an intercessor immersed in the glory of God. Thus the emphasis lies on youth and immateriality; it is an intent to transfigure.

How is "frater Antonius" represented?

The Franciscan biography Vita prima notes that St. Anthony was burdened with a tendency towards corpulence and troubled by continual infirmity. The legend called Raymundina interprets this as "dropsy". We now know that this term has had different meanings over the centuries, and so it is difficult to know which of these definitions was intended.
Following the latest recognition of his mortal remains (January 1981) the team of experts made detailed analyses which provide us with precious information.
    1. He was 1,71 m tall, much taller than the average height which in those days was 1,62-1,65m.
    2. His head had a dolichocephalous shape, i.e. elongated, with a considerable cranial capacity (1.650 cm3).
    3. His face was not round, but thin and narrow,
    4. his chin was pronounced, long, strong, slightly squared.
    5. his eyes were large and deep-set,
    6. his nose was aquiline,
    7. his hair was black,
    8. his teeth were straight and healthy. All the teeth were retained, with no signs of decay: this speaks strongly in favour of the vegetarian diet he followed.
    9. The upper half of his physique wasn't very strong, but was well-proportioned, with long hands and tapering fingers; the lower half of his physique was more developed, due to continual walking.
    10. his knees showed evidence of long periods of time spent in prayer. He thus was a normal-looking man of Mediterranean origin, with a noble, fine profile.
    11. The miraculous Saint was not a picture of miraculous health. He worried about the health of others, without thinking of his own. He must have had a strong constitution. Fr. Doimi says: "The rigid standard of living, the harshness of the penitent life, the exhausting ministry of confessions and preaching without pause, lead us to believe that by nature the Saint had a robust physical constitution, even if he died young. The violent fever contracted in Africa had after effects, and perhaps here lies the reason for his continual ill-health and his death.

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