Anthony of Padua, A Miracle of Jesus

16th century
Fresco
Church of St. Roch, Draguć, Croatia

The white objects on the ground and in the hand of Jesus' interlocutor could be round loaves, with cuts on the top for rising as is usual with bread. That would suggest the episode of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, the person on the right being one of the apostles who helped with the distribution and the hilly background reflecting the mountain setting in the gospels' accounts of this miracle.

But all four gospels say Jesus fed the multitude with five loaves and two fishes (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:32-44, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:1-13), and Matthew and Mark also tell of a second episode in which there were seven loaves and "a few" fish (Matthew 15:32-38, Mark 8:1-10). So why twelve loaves? And why no fish?

Another possibility, perhaps more likely, is that the panel pictures the first of Jesus' temptations in Matthew 4:3 and Luke 4:3, when the devil suggests that Jesus turn stones into bread. The twelve objects in the panel are white like stones, not brown like bread. In Luke the devil refers to "this stone," as if he were pointing to one, just as the interlocutor is doing in this fresco. Also, the interlocutor's feet appear to be splayed, a feature of devils remarked on in texts as diverse as Felix's Life of Guthlac in the 8th century, Dekker's The Roaring Girl in the 17th, and modern-day novels of the occult.1 The second temptation, that Jesus prove himself by leaping from "the pinnacle of the Temple," may be the reason for the church in the background with the exceptionally tall belltower.

This image in full resolution
More of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes
More of the temptation of Christ in the desert

Photographed at the church by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.























































1 Colgrave, 103. Knowles, 9 (The Roaring Girl, scene 9 line 10).