This is the companion blog to my Sacred Art & Antiquities online store. Here I discuss some of the items I'm offering and post information on Christian images, recent archeological finds, and the meaning of religious symbolism in our lives. If you're interested in any specific items, please visit Sacred Art & Antiquities. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Carrying the Child: Saint Anthony

Portion of French statue available on Sacred Art website.

Two saints are often depicted carrying the Christ Child, one version rooted in legend and the other in an interesting evolution of Christian imagery.

Of the two saints, Anthony of Padua was a real man, living from 1195 to 1221. He was born in Lisbon into a wealthy family and entered the priesthood. In 1219, only 11 years after Saint Francis found his order, Anthony met five Franciscan friars en route to Morocco to preach. The five became the first Franciscans to be martyred, and this event led to Anthony joining the Franciscan order and working alongside Saint Francis himself.

Saint Anthony became known for his persuasive preaching and deep knowledge of scripture. In the centuries since his death, his image has been associated with a variety of symbols, most notably a fish, a flaming heart, and a lily stalk. He often was portrayed reading a book containing a depiction of the Christ Child, such as in the 1580 portrait by the Spanish artist El Greco (1541-1614) shown here.

Eventually, the image of the child was painted larger and larger, until a new image dominated of Saint Anthony carrying the Christ Child, and often carrying a lily as well. He is often invoked to help with recovery of lost items.

Portrait of Saint Anthony by El Greco in 1580, showing Christ Child in book.

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