Master of the Legend of Jana Jałmużnika, St. John the Almsgiver Assists an Impoverished Merchant

Detail of the Polyptych of Saint John the Merciful
Circa 1502-1504
Tempera and gold plate on spruce wood
National Museum, Kraków

In the complicated story behind this panel the saint first gives five pounds of gold to "a foreign captain who had fallen upon evil days" to help him buy a cargo and go trading. But the man keeps suffering shipwrecks, and each time St. John provides more money and explains what offense of the captain's had caused him to be punished so. On the final voyage the crew loses its way, but John miraculously appears to them and says, "Fear not! You are sailing quite right." Then they land in Britain, where they make a very profitable deal.

The panel shows the beginning of this story on the left, with John giving the gold to the ship captain. On the right we see him bringing assurance to the crew. On both sides he is identified by his tau-topped staff, which one sees in other images as well.

More of St. John the Almsgiver

Source: Wikimedia Commons