A pilgrimage site and the burial place of St Anthony of Padua (1193–1231), this huge church was begun in 1232, its polyglot style incorporating rising eastern domes atop a Gothic brick structure crammed with Renaissance treasures. Behind the high altar, nine radiating chapels punctuate a broad ambulatory homing in on the Cappella delle Reliquie (Relics Chapel), where the relics of St Anthony reside.
You’ll also notice dozens of people clustering along the left transept waiting their turn to enter the Cappella del Santo, where Anthony’s tomb is covered with requests and thanks for the saint’s intercession in curing illness and recovering lost objects. The chapel itself is a light-filled Renaissance confection lined with nine panels vividly depicting the story of Anthony’s life in extraordinary relief sculptures. The panels are attributed to the Padua-born Lombardo brothers and were completed around 1510.
Other notable works include the lifelike 1360s crucifix by Veronese master Altichiero da Zevio in the frescoed Cappella di San Giacomo; the wonderful 1528 sacristy fresco of St Anthony preaching to spellbound fish by a follower of Girolamo Tessari; and 1444–50 high altar reliefs by Florentine Renaissance master Donatello (ask guards for access).
Through the south door of the basilica you reach the attached monastery with its five wonderfully peaceful cloisters. The oldest (13th century) is the Chiostro della Magnolia, so called because of the magnificent tree in its centre. The complex also holds a large gift shop selling icons and St Anthony souvenirs to pilgrims.