Images of the saints have been represented in stone and wood and paint throughout the history of the Church. This is surely due to the fact that we faithful need to put a face on those figures whom we honour, and for whom we feel a special affection.

St Anthony of Padua is one of the most revered saints and his image has been painted and sculpted countless times. So often he is shown holding the Child Jesus in his arms. He is frequently represented with an angelic, almost feminine face.

It seems the real Anthony looked very different.

The University of St Anthony of Padua’s Anthropology Museum, together with a team of international forensic researchers, have worked to reconstruct the face of St Anthony using only a digital copy of his skull. Using the latest 3D technology, the researchers sought to recreate the saint’s face.

Cicero Morales, 3D designer of the University of Sao Paolo, renowned for his work in archaeological facial reconstruction, was part of the project. The Brazilian expert was asked to reconstruct the saint’s face knowing only that the skull belonged to a 36-year-old male.

‘At each step I asked myself, who was that man? When I found out, I was speechless, literally amazed. Although I am not religious, I felt a huge responsibility. Millions of people in the world would be able to see the face of their saint!’ Morales said.

Famous as a popular preacher, Anthony died at the friary close to Padua, Italy, on 13 June 1231. He was declared a saint less than one year after his death, in May 1232, and he has been a most popular saint ever since.