Saint Bavo is received by Saints Amand and Floribert

The modello (oil sketch) shows Saint Bavo on the steps of St Peter's church in Ghent. Before his conversion to Christianity, Saint Bavo was a knight called Count Allowin of Haspengouw. Here he is shown being received as a monk into the church by Saint Floribert (bending forward), abbot of the Benedictine monastery, and Saint Amandus, who converted him. In the foreground, Rubens has delighted in showing Saint Bavo's wealth being distributed to the poor; the wriggling children and the muscular beggars give the donation a heroic theatricality.

In the right panel Kings Clothar and Dagobert, father and son, support Saint Bavo's decision and dispute with a herald of the Emperor Mauritius, an edict that forbade knights to become monks. In the left panel are Saints Gertrude and Begga, Bavo's sisters, who followed his example and became nuns.

The painting was commissioned around 1611 for the high altar of St Bavo, Ghent.

This is the central panel from Rubens's oil sketch for the High Altarpiece at St Bavo in Ghent.

Key facts

Artist dates
1577 - 1640
Full title
Saint Bavo is received by Saints Amand and Floribert
Date made
Medium and support
Oil on oak
106.7 x 82.1 cm
Acquisition credit
Holwell Carr Bequest, 1831
Inventory number
Location in Gallery

Other paintings in the group: Oil Sketch for High Altarpiece, St Bavo, Ghent