Chapel of St. Anthony
The Jewel of the Shrine
The jewel of the Shrine, and its most important room, is the Chapel. Upon entering the Chapel itself, one should pause, realizing that this is "sacred space" and "holy ground" – where an atmosphere of holy silenceprevails, creating an oasis of peace for the Divine Presence within.
With its beautifully carved gumwood choir stalls, its mosaic Stations of the Cross, and its coffered ceiling, the Chapel is a gem of the early Renaissance.It has four distinct areas: the interior narthex, the nave, the sanctuary, and the apse.
In the narthex is the reliquary of St. Anthony. This gold-leafed bust depicts the Portuguese Franciscan whom the whole world would come to know as the “miracle-worker” and “finder of lost things.”
In the middle of the flame is a precious first-class relic ofthe saint – a smallpiece of petrified flesh removed from his sarcophagus in Padua, Italy, in 1995. The friars in Padua sent the relic to the friars of Ellicott City in 1998. Catholics venerate, orpay respect to, relics as remembrances of a saint whose human body was once a “temple” of the Holy Spirit.
Hundreds of thousands of people each year send the friars petitions for the heavenly intercession of St. Anthony – friend of God and friend to humanity.
The nave of the Chapel consists of the choir stalls facing each other. Here the friars would recite or chant the Divine Office, back and forth across the dark flagstone floor. The original choir stalls numbered 72, after the number of disciples sent out by Jesus in the Gospels. With the additional pews in front, the choir now seats 150.
The nave leads to the sanctuary, where Holy Mass is offered on the central Altar. The Altar was designed to evoke the teaching of Jesus “I am the vine; you are the branches”(John 15:1-8). The ambo (pulpit lectern) in the nave has a matching design, linking the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
These chapel furnishings attempt to evoke the spirit of St. Anthony, the friar and priest, who used every opportunity to encourage people to hear the Word of God and to participate in the Holy Eucharist.
The biblical tree motif also reminds people of the fact that St. Anthony, towards the end of his life, spent many hours of prayer in a walnut treehouse which his friend Count Tiso had constructed for him at Camposampiero. It was in that walnut tree that Anthony had his vision of the Christ child.
To the right of the altar is a large walnut Tau Cross. St. Francis of Assisi adopted the Tau as his “signature,” after he heard Pope Innocent III preach about it at the 4th Lateran Council. Depending upon the liturgical season of the year, one of two carved images of Christ hang on the Tau: Christ Crucified or the Resurrected Jesus. The corpus of Christ Crucified was carved at Niepokalanow, Poland, by an artist whose guardian and mentor was St. Maximilian Kolbe. The Resurrected Jesus, like many other chapel furnishings, came to Ellicott City from the former St. Hyacinth College and Seminary in Granby, Massachusetts.
The apse at the far end of the Chapel centers upon the Tabernacle– designed with the biblical tree motif, and depicting the descent of the Holy Spirit with its seven spiritual gifts: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, piety, knowledge, and fear of the Lord.
Persons are welcome to enter the apse for silent prayer and adoration. The sanctuary and apse together form the Shrine’s “oasis of peace,” where Jesus Christ welcomes people of all faiths to experience themselves as infinitely loved by God.
As you leave the Shrine of St.Anthony, it is the prayer and hope of the Franciscan Friars that each and all of you will have experienced God’s love here.
Jesus said “My peace I give to you”(John 14:27). In the words of the Franciscan motto, the friars wish you that same “Peace and Good” – Pax et Bonum!