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(Video) Reconstructing face of St. Anthony and other saints

John Touhey - published on 09/20/23

We often wonder if the saints really looked like their depictions on holy cards. Researchers and digital artists are using the latest tech to try and find out.

Images of the saints are extremely important to Catholics. They are a reminder that the holy men and women who we venerate and ask to intercede for us were flesh and blood human beings. Of course, the vast majority of saints were born long before the invention of photography. We can’t help but wonder if St. Anthony, for instance, really looked like the typical image of him that we see on holy cards. And what about St. Peter or St. Joan of Arc?

Painting of St. Anothony of Padua with the child Jesus

In St. Anthony’s case at least, it turns out that the traditional image of the saint may bear little relationship to his actual appearance in life.

Reconstructing a saint

Back in 2014, a Brazilian 3-D artist named Cícero Moraes used a technique called “forensic facial reconstruction” to digitally recreate the beloved saint’s true appearance based on his skull.

The result was quite unexpected and differed greatly from the results of a 1981 research study. However, Moraes’ version of St. Anthony’s face bears a strong resemblance to an old fresco depicting the saint at the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua, Italy.

Moraes has attempted to create reconstructions of other saints’ faces as well – as have other researchers. To see which saints have received a digital facelift, watch the video above.

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