Born Ferdinand, Saint Anthony was the son of a Portuguese knight. At the age of 16 he became an Augustinian friar at São Vincente. In the course of studies at Coimbra, he developed a passion for missionary work and joined the Franciscans in 1220. He was so ill on the trip to Morocco that he had to return to Europe and was unable to preach among the Muslims as he wished. He was a participant in the General Chapter of Assisi the following year, after which he was sent to the hermitage of São Paolo near Forlì. At his ordination, he preached so eloquently that he was sent to teach theology at Bologna. He also began to preach against heretics in northern Italy. Some say that Francis himself ordered Anthony to teach and preach. Anthony, who also taught at Montpelier, preached so well against the Albigenses in France that he earned the nickname of "the hammer of heretics".
In 1227 Anthony was chosen Provincial of northern Italy; he was also chosen to travel to Rome with the delegation that presented Francis' rule and testament to the Pope. Anthony, whose knowledge of the the Bible was considerable, worked to help debtors and has been called an apostle to the poor. Slight in stature, strong and fearless, Anthony died of dropsy in 1231. Gregory IX canonized him the following year. He's one of the most important saints of Christian faith.