Just then, we are minded that Padova was a university town, and that the University of Padova was built in 1222, the second oldest learning institution (the oldest is the University of Bologna) in the world. It could count numerous thinkers and scientists in its roster of students: Dante, Donatello, Copernicus, and Galileo, among others.
The Via del Santo - leading to the world-famous basilica― the Basilica di Sant’Antonio, a pilgrimage site for Roman Catholics, and especially on June 13th, his feast day. The basilica was the hallowed place where the bones of St. Anthony were interred, and parts of his body, some of them incorruptible, were placed in reliquaries for the faithful to pray to and contemplate.
The basilica was built in several stages over 70 years, so that aside from the church proper, there are three large domes and several turrets when seen from the piazza. Inside the basilica, a long queue of pilgrims leading to the high altar at the center. Many chapels on both sides consecrated to saints and the Blessed Virgin are also found here.
One of the chapels contained the saint’s tomb where his bones are laid and many requests, folded papers, and postcards of petitions placed on his tomb. We kneel in this chapel for some time, praying for personal requests and also for the intentions of family and friends, especially close kin that were so far away.
Joining the queue to look at St. Anthony’s relics, I note that the reliquaries are so intricate and so ornate: they look like chalices with gold crowns. According to our guide book, St. Anthony was known for his eloquent sermons and drew so many people in his lifetime to hear him speak, after his death the Church fathers removed his tongue, lower jaw, and vocal chords to be venerated as religious relics that could produce miracles.