Saint Anthony of Padua was known as the hammer of heretics and the evangelical doctor, and is considered the first theologian of the Franciscan order. He possessed all the qualities necessary for an eloquent preacher:
"a strong and clear voice, an attractive countenance, a marvelous memory and profound knowledge, to which was added from above the spirit of prophecy and an extraordinary gift of miracles."
When Saint Anthony died on June 13, 1231, his body was buried in the small Franciscan church of Saint Mary in Padua. In 1263, the construction of the current large basilica was sufficiently advanced for his remains to be placed under the high altar.
When the coffin was opened on this occasion, it was found that the body of the saint had been reduced to ashes, except for a few bones, but that his tongue was intact and alive. Saint Bonaventure, who was present as General Minister of the Friars Minor, respectfully took his tongue in his hands and exclaimed,
“O blessed tongue, which has always blessed God and caused others to bless him, it now appears evident how great were your merits before God!”.
The tongue of Saint Anthony was placed in a special reliquary , and can still be seen today in a separate chapel on the epistle side of the basilica. In 1310 the basilica was almost finished and the remains of Saint Anthony were transferred to a tomb in the middle of the nave.
The final transfer of the relics of Saint Anthony to their current chapel on the Gospel side of the basilica took place in 1350. It is this last transfer which is commemorated on February 15.