Lorenzo Monaco, St. Benedict and the Monk Who Wandered Away

Tempera on wood
Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

This is a panel from the predella of the Coronation of the Virgin that Don Lorenzo painted for the Camaldolese church of St. Mary of the Angels in Florence. It illustrates chapter 4 of Gregory the Great's Life of St. Benedict. In the oratory on the right, Benedict is the one pointing at the monk who is going out the door. The other monks could not understand why their brother would always leave the oratory when prayers began. But Benedict was able to see that a black demon had been dragging the unfortunate man away from the oratory "by the skirt of his garment." Later Benedict was able to drive the demon away and the monk "was so freed from all allurement of the little black boy, that he remained quietly at his prayers, as the other monks did."

The left side of this panel illustrates a passage in chapter 1. For a time St. Benedict had been a hermit living in a cave below a high cliff. A monk named Romanus would leave his monastery from time to time to bring Benedict a loaf of bread, which he would tie with a rope and lower to the cave from the top of the cliff. In the image Romanus is on the cliff, leaning over and lowering the loaf. Benedict is below, his arms crossed over his chest in the gesture of humble acceptance seen in Annunciations and similar contexts.

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