Friday, September 23, 2016


When we finished our tour of Old Swedes we moved on to another remarkable but very different building: St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church. This Romanesque Revival church, patterned after the Basilica di San Zeno in Verona, Italy, took seven years to build and was finished in 1926. Much of the work on the building was done by artistically skilled parishioners. It is located in an Italian neighborhood of Wilmington and is famous for the Italian festival held here every spring. 

St. Anthony stands outside as sentinel. As you might be able to tell by his haircut and clothing, he was a Franciscan. 
He lived only 35 years, from 1195 to 1231, and is noted for his brilliant speaking and knowledge of the scriptures, for his dedication to the poor, and as the patron saint of finding both things and lost people--a nice guy to have around. Here he is again in the tympanum, holding what I assume is the Christ child:

One of my favorite things about the church was the Italian cathedral-style doors. The front door has ten panels, each with a caption from the Beatitudes:

 While not as ornate as Ghiberti's famous baptistery doors in Florence, I couldn't help but make the connection:
Ghiberti's baptistery doors, Florence, Italy

The figures in the panels at St. Anthony's have clean, elongated lines. The panels are deceptively simple, but on closer inspection, there are exquisite details. Each panel has three distinct scenes. That mother nursing her child in the top left corner appears to be Mary, and that must be Joseph standing in front of her. The center figure is Christ teaching, and I'm not sure what is happening on the right--perhaps Christ before Pilate? The caption for this montage is "Happy the poor in spirit":

This panel appears to show both the triumphal entry in the foreground and the betrayal of Jesus by Judas on the left. I'm not sure what is on the right. The caption is "Happy the Humble":

That could be Jesus turning water to wine at the wedding in Cana on the left, raising Jairus's daughter from the dead on the right, and being strengthened by an angel in the Garden of Gethsemane in the center. What do you think? The caption is "Happy Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Holiness":

This final panel is a bit easier. On the left is Mary Magdalene washing Jesus's feet. On the right is the scourging of Jesus (okay, not sure about that one as it's not a whip), and in the center is the moment during the crucifixion when Jesus tells the thief on his right, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." The caption is "Happy the Merciful," an especially poignant title for this grouping:

Other entrances have similar doors with different themes:
The tympanum identifies these six panels as scenes from the life of St. Francis of Sales, who can be identified in each panel by his halo:

My favorite part of this door is the angels on the door handles:

A third door shows scenes from the life of St. Francis of Assisi:

The interior of St. Anthony's has a high barrel ceiling over the nave:

The ceiling is covered with three-dimensional recessed octagons:

Colonnaded arches create the side passageways, and light pours through stained glass windows on the upper level:

The altar is under its own domed ceiling that is painted with brilliant peacock blue and gold leaf:

Cubbies in the sides of the arch look like they might hold choir members:

The painting on the altar arches has an art deco feel, a popular style in the 1920s and 1930s:

A new organ was installed in St. Anthony's in 2012:

There are many unique artworks scattered around St. Anthony's. How about these architectural embellishments:

This man's face caught my eye:

. . . as did his pose. This is Saint Rocco, or Roch, who, though he appears healthy, is showing the world the mark of the plague on his leg, evidence that the righteous could survive the plague:

I assume this is St. Anthony and the Virgin Mary with the resurrected Christ, who is holding the sacred heart, a symbol of his divine love. When I see pieces like this tucked away in lovely but relatively unknown churches, I wonder who the artist was who spent months, perhaps even years, of his or her life carving such adoration:

And likewise, who carved these delightful angels at the end of each pew?

Mary must be the woman most often depicted in art in all the world:
At first I thought this wonderful relief, in which the characters almost seem to be moving, was the Last Supper, but there are women here along with the men. Perhaps it shows Jesus visiting his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus one last time before the crucifixion:

I'm always on the lookout for art that depicts Joseph the Carpenter, such a neglected but vitally important figure, and St. Anthony's had TWO depictions of him. The first shows the holy family. Note that Joseph is holding a square, a common carpentry tool, which helps the viewer identify who he is:

However, this mosaic is one of my all-time favorite depictions of Joseph and Jesus:
Isn't it wonderful?

The Stations of the Cross are also among my all-time favorites. The faces exude such strong emotion, the colors are so vibrant, and the poses speak volumes. A four-line poem is included beneath each painting, the last line drawing the viewer into the scene. Here are a few of my favorites:

St. Anthony of Padua Parish Church, a little neighborhood church in Wilmington, Delaware, is a jewel and one of the many, many reasons why we travel America.


  1. Another absolutely fabulous church. Wilmington goes from, "Why on earth would we want to go there?", to "Why did we wait so long to go there?"

  2. I have come to love the many ways churches find to create a feeling of reverence and worship through stained glass or cravings or ornate ceilings or art. Yes, the Joseph and Jesus is fabulous!