Benozzo Gozzoli (1420-97), Totila Before St. Benedict

Tempera on wood
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 15.106.4, Rogers Fund, 1915

This episode is recounted in Gregory the Great's Dialogues (II, xiv). To test whether Benedict was indeed a prophet, King Totila had a servant named Riggo dress up as if he were the king and sent him to Benedict. Benedict was not fooled, so Totila visited him with his retinue and, as we see in the painting, "he durst not come near, but fell down to the ground." Then Benedict prophesies what will happen to Totila in the years to come.

I would imagine that Riggo would be the one figure in the retinue who stands out visually, the man facing us with the forked beard.

The Golden Legend has a shorter version of this event, in which the servant dies of shame and the king is not said to visit St. Benedict at all.

The painting is one of a set of four panels in the museum. The others are St. Zenobius Resuscitating a Dead Child, St. Peter and Simon Magus, and The Conversion of St. Paul.

Read more about images of St. Benedict.

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