In the homeland of the inimitable San Daniele’s prosciutto, a church dedicated to the patron saint of butchers could not be missing: that’s the church of Sant'Antonio Abate. Also considered the protector of farmers and pets, the saint is usually represented with a pig beside him.
Traditionally, on January 17th the animals were blessed and placed under the protection of the saint. The Order of the Antonians was allowed to breed pigs inside the inhabited centers, and the animals, provided with a bell hanging from the neck, were left free and fed by the whole the community. This tradition started thanks to the fact that the pigs’ fat was used to relieve the pain proved by people affected by shingles (or herpes zoster). This particular way of breeding pigs has left traces in the local lexicon and idioms. In fact, in the Friulian language, to call somebody a “purcit di Sant'Antoni” (Saint Anhony’s pig) is a way to describe them as someone who’s always messing around.
The Church of Sant'Antonio Abate is located in the city center on Via Garibaldi. It was the church of the Sant'Antonio Hospital, once located in the opposite building. Consecrated for the first time in 1308, it was damaged by the earthquake of 1348. Starting in 1441 it was rebuilt, extending and adapting the existing building, by volunteers of the Hospital of S. Antonio, which looked after the poor, orphans, and the pilgrims. It was later consecrated a second time in 1470, as precised by the epigraph placed above the portal. The facade, in Venetian Gothic style, is made out of Istrian stone and recalls the facade of S. Maria della Fratta. The portal is placed between two pointed windows and contains a lunette carved with the figures of Saint Anthony the Great, Saint John the Baptist and Saint Anthony of Padua. Above them is situated a bust of the Eternal Father, while the rose window is decorated with columns and a round sculpture with the Madonna and Child in the center.
Currently the church is no longer used to worship. Inside you can admire a wonderful cycle of frescoes, executed between 1497 and 1522 by Martino da Udine, better known as Pellegrino from S. Daniele.