ST. ANTONINUS.–Antonio Pierozzi, generally called Antonino on account of his slender figure, was born at Florence in 1389, the son of a notary. Rejoined the Dominican fraternity in his native town in 1405, at the age of sixteen, and rose fairly rapidly to the dignity of Prior. Later he became Vicar-General of the Province of Tuscany, and the example of his determined asceticism exercised a reforming influence throughout the whole Order, so that he is regarded as the leader of those who observed strictly the rule of the blessed Johannes Dominicus. He was utterly unassuming in all matters concerning his own person, and a living example of the Imitation of Christ. He actually refused the call of Pope Eugene IV. to accept the office of Archbishop of Florence and submitted only when he was threatened with excommunication (1446). Even in the midst of his new dignities, he continued to regard the love of his fellows as the first of the virtues. During the famine and plague in Florence in 1448 and after the disastrous earthquake of 1453 he proved himself a true saint and the friend and father of those in sickness or distress. In order to portray with some completeness the character of this spiritual and selfless man, we must add that he was also a theological writer of high merit, whose works still retain their value. Without the influence of St. Anthony, it is impossible to conceive such an historical figure as Savanarola.
When he died in 1459 Pope Pius II. Piccolomini was in Florence and took part in his Archbishop’s funeral ceremony. So detailed an account of the ceremony has come down to us that we are able to trace the connection of the death mask with it. But a similar problem arises as in the case of St. Bernardino da Siena. St. Anthony, too–he was canonised, by the way, by Pope Hadrian VI. in 1523–lay in state in San Marco for a week, and we cannot be sure whether it was his embalmed body, with the entrails removed, to which the throng of the faithful paid homage, or an effigies. In the latter case, there would be no difficulty in explaining why the death mask is still kept in the convent of San Marco; but we may regard the taking of the mask as a tribute to the sentiment of personality awakening in the Quattrocento. (Joh. Bollandi et Godefridi Henschenii: Acta Sanctorum, Antwerp, 1680, vol. i. pp. 310 fF. See under May 2.)
Black & White Photos and quotations from: Benkard, Ernst, & Green, Margaret (1927). Undying Faces, A Collection of Death Masks. New York, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.