The Legend of the Crucifix of Beirut
Tuscan, First quarter of the 16th century
Tempera on panel
Museum of the Basilica of St. Francis, Assisi, Italy
This is a panel from a predella illustrating a legend recounted in this segment of Golden Legend #137 and summarized in the Roman Martyrology for November 9. In the story, a Jew in 8th-century Beirut rented a house that had been rented by a Christian. When the Christian moved out he had forgotten to take along an "image" of the crucified Christ from the wall of his bedroom. (Whether it was a crucifix or a painting is not specified.) The Jew did not notice the image, but when he invited some friends for dinner they did see it and were furious. One of them summoned his co-religionists, who gave the man a severe beating, trampled on the image, and thrust a lance into it. Then blood began to flow miraculously from the image. They collected the blood and took it to their synagogue, where it proved capable of curing any disease. The Jews were amazed, and they all converted and were baptized.
The panel shown here presents the moment when one of the guests starts to berate the Jew for having an image of Jesus in his home.
A Sotheby's catalogue of 2007 offered two predella panels from the same period that picture the beating of the Jew and the lancing of the image. The style is strikingly similar to the Franciscan museum's panel, and it may be that they are from the same predella. However, it should be noted that the "image" in the museum panel is a painting whereas the one in the catalogue is a crucifix. Also, the catalogue ascribes its panels to the Bolognese School, while the museum ascribes its piece to an anonymo Tuscano.
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More about crosses and crucifixes
Photographed at the museum by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.