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Lorenzo Monaco, Incidents in the Life of Saint Benedict

Key facts
Full title Incidents in the Life of Saint Benedict: Predella Panel
Artist Lorenzo Monaco
Artist dates active 1399; died 1423 or 1424
Series San Benedetto Altarpiece
Date made 1407-9
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 28.4 × 52 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1925
Inventory number NG4062
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Incidents in the Life of Saint Benedict
Lorenzo Monaco

In this painting, we see two stories from the life of Saint Benedict happening at once. On the left Benedict tells Saint Maurus to rescue Saint Placidus, who has fallen in the lake while fetching water. Maurus walks out on to the lake as if it were land and pulls Placidus – still grasping his jug – out by the hair. On the right Benedict visits his sister, Saint Scholastica. When he refuses her invitation to stay the night, she prays for him to remain and a miraculous rainstorm prevents him leaving; you can see the rain lashing the roof.

This panel comes from the predella, or bottom tier, of a large altarpiece painted for San Benedetto fuori della Porta Pinti, just outside Florence. It emphasises not just Benedict but the role of his followers, especially youthful monks, and the power of prayer – very suitable for the monks of San Benedetto.

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San Benedetto Altarpiece


A glorious, glowing, multi-coloured company of saints and angels surround Christ and his mother as he delicately places a golden crown on her head, making her Queen of Heaven. This huge polyptych (multi-panelled altarpiece) was painted for the high altar of the monastery of San Benedetto fuori della Porta Pinti in Florence. It was originally even bigger: its main panels are in the National Gallery, but other parts are scattered in collections across the world.

The Camaldolites (a religious order founded in 1012) were famous for their strict lifestyle, although they lived among great visual riches. The monastery’s register records how it was commissioned by a Florentine citizen, Luca Pieri Rinieri Berri, who was to pay almost the entire cost. In recompense his name was painted on the altarpiece – a few letters can be made out on the grey step of dais – so that he would be remembered in the monks' prayers.