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The Sanctuary of Saint Anthony of Padua in Gemona del Friuli is the world’s oldest church dedicated to Saint Anthony.

The massive monochromatic façade of the Sanctuary of Saint Anthony, with its white stone rose window and splendid gold lunette, dominates Piazza Sant’Antonio in the oldest part of Gemona. Already present in smaller form (as a simple settlement for the monks, with no noteworthy constructions) in 1219, according to a document filed with the Patriarch Bertrando, it is one of the town’s most important religious buildings, of considerable historic and artistic significance. It is  the oldest place of worship dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua, the “Saint of miracles”. 

Cloister of the Sanctuary of Saint Anthony in Gemona

Tradition has it that Saint Anthony himself had a chapel erected in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, during his 1227 visit to Gemona. The Chapel of the Immaculate Conception was expanded, renovated and embellished with art over the years, but unfortunately it was destroyed by the 1976 Friuli earthquake. Along with the ruins of the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, the Chapel of the Rosary represents all that could be recovered following the 1976 quake. The original sanctuary was consecrated on 15 March 1248, seventeen years after Saint Anthony’s death, and fifteen years before the completion of construction of the famous basilica dedicated to the Saint in Padua, Pontificia Basilica Minore di Sant’Antonio da Padova. This is why Gemona is the northern end of the Way of Saint Anthony’s Way leading to the tomb of the Saint; the southern end of this long walking itinerary is in Capo Milazzo, Sicily, where Saint Anthony is said to have washed up after being shipwrecked 800 years ago, on his way to Assisi to meet Saint Francis.

The Sanctuary of Saint Anthony reborn after the earthquake

The Sanctuary was reconstructed in modern form, and in its interior, with a single nave, the ceiling beams create dynamic effects of perspective recalling the tremors of the earth during the cataclysm. The only construction that could be recovered and restored is the small presbytery of the  Chapel of the Rosary, to the right of the entrance to the nave, declared a national heritage site for its great artistic value: it was constructed in 1682 to give thanks for the end of the plague, and was decorated and frescoed by Swiss artist Melchior Widmar.

Chapel of the Rosary (1682)

Visitors are struck by the symphony of colours in the works of Udine artist  Arrigo Poz in the chapel: an enormous symbolic mosaic on the back wall depicting the World and the Universe, with a meteor streaking across it to symbolise the light of Christ; a series of  13 stained glass windows in bright, lively colours depicting  figures of Franciscan saints; the side rose window in mosaic style, with alabaster and stained glass pieces representing  Saint Francis’s “Canticle of the Creatures” , and the Penitential Chapel.

A particular feature of each sanctuary is the abundant displays of votive offerings. Displayed behind the presbytery, they express the gratitude of the faithful for grace received (PGR stands for “per grazie ricevuti”). A number of them are of considerable historic and artistic value.

One particularly suggestive part of the church is the  Saint’s cell, the room where Saint Anthony is said to have slept during his visit to Gemona. On the left wall of the cell, which did not suffer much damage in the earthquake, is a painting depicting the scene of the miracle of the young man said to have been revived by the saint in Gemona, which the monks at the Sanctuary love to show to visitors and worshippers.

Artworks in the Sanctuary in Gemona

There are many more artworks worth discovering with an in-depth exploration, complete with a look around  Museo “Renato Raffaelli”, below the nave of the church. This is where the monastery’s artistic treasures are kept, including works by painters of the Veneto and Friuli regions and a number of works by northern and central Italian painters, as well as several canvases by Swiss painter  Melchior Widmar. The sculptures include an engraved, gilded and painted wooden Mary and Child or “Madonna Bella”, of the late fourteenth-century Salzburg school.

For more information refer to the website of the Sanctuary of Saint Anthony:  www.santantoniogemona.it

Texts prepared with the assistance of Gabriele Marini and Mauro Vale

Brief videos about the history, art and devotion surrounding the Sanctuary of Saint Anthony in Gemona

These videos were filmed in 2020, during the celebrations of the patron saint of Gemona, by the municipality and the Pro Glemona association at the Sanctuary of Saint Anthony and the Tourist Office in Gemona. Filming and editing by SG Video Produzioni

VIDEO ABOUT SAINT ANTHONY IN GEMONA AND “THE WAY OF SAINT ANTHONY”

Brother Giovanni Battista Ronconi tells us about the arrival of Saint Anthony of Padua in Gemona and the construction, at his request, of a little chapel in honour of Our Lady, the ruins of which are still preserved and venerated in the Sanctuary.

Councillor for Culture Flavia Virilli presents ”Cammino di Sant’Antonio”. Gemona del Friuli will be the northern gateway to the pilgrimage route that crosses the region on the way to the Pontifical Basilica of Saint Anthony in Padua. The southern end of this long walking itinerary is in Capo Milazzo, Sicily, where Saint Anthony is said to have washed up after being shipwrecked in the year 1221 before setting out for Assisi to meet Saint Francis.

SAINT ANTHONY’S CELL AND THE VOTIVE OFFERINGS TESTIFYING TO THE LIVES AND FAITH OF THE PEOPLE

Brother Giovanni Battista Ronconi takes us to the “Saint’s cell”, where Saint Anthony is said to have slept during his stay in Gemona, now a place of prayer and meditation. Along the walls of the corridor to the cell are numerous votive offerings, by means of which the faithful expressed their thanks for grace received.

SAINT ANTHONY AND THE MONASTERY DEDICATED TO HIS NAME IN GEMONA IN THE DOCUMENTS IN THE ARCHIVES AND THE LIBRARY

A fragment of history among the many treasures preserved at Civica Biblioteca Glemonense, a library over a hundred years old!

Curator Dr. Loredana Bortolotti accompanies us as we follow the traces of the documents on the Sanctuary of Saint Anthony and the newsreels and notes that appeared in the press in Gemona in 1895, on the occasion of the celebrations commemorating the seven hundredth anniversary of the saint’s birth.

THE D’ARONCO FAMILY AND SAINT ANTHONY.
THE STORY OF A PROJECT THAT WAS NEVER BUILT.

Architect Raimondo D’Aronco came up with a famous plan, never built, for the Sanctuary of Saint Anthony in Gemona. Professor Giuseppe Marini, author of “Intorno a Raimondo D’Aronco”, a book dedicating an entire chapter to the Sanctuary, tells us the family’s story.

THE SANCTUARY OF SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA IN GEMONA, COMBINING THE ANCIENT AND THE MODERN

Brother Giovanni Battista Ronconi takes us on a voyage through time in discovery of the Sanctuary of Saint Anthony, with a look at the testimony offered by modern art and traces of ancient art and history.

THE TREASURES OF “RENATO RAFFAELLI” MUSEUM IN THE SANCTUARY OF SAINT ANTHONY IN GEMONA DEL FRIULI

Below the nave of the new Sanctuary is a great crypt containing a museum about engineer Renato Raffaelli, a distinguished benefactor of the Sanctuary. The museum preserves more than 100 artworks produced in Friuli and north of the Alps, including an outstanding fifteenth-century “Madonna Bella”, a Mary and Child sculpture of the Salzburg school. Brother Giovanni guides us in discovery of these treasures.

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Every day (Weekdays, Sundays & Holidays)
07.00 – 12.00 / 15.00 – 18.30

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Large, flat parking lot without reserved parking spots for the disabled | There are no differences in level in the area in front of and behind the entrance door | Accessible toilets | Accessible for the hearing-impaired and for persons with motorial and mental disabilities | Not accessible for the visually impaired

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The Way of Saint Anthony

The new section of the Pilgrimage Way of Saint Anthony from Gemona del Friuli to Padua.

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Itinerary of sacred places

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The Feast of Saint Anthony