Jan Polack, St. Peter Exorcises a Man

Church of St. Peter, Munich, Germany

A small black demon exits from the ear of the man in red, bottom center. It seems clear that this image must have had a literary antecedent, but so far I have not found any such exorcism in scripture or in any of the numerous works I have consulted. The Acts of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul mentions several times that Peter was performing exorcisms in Rome, but without recounting any one instance. A vita in the Acta Sanctorum (June vol. 5, 426) mentions Peter's exorcising an entire group of people in Cæsarea as well as an individual girl, but has nothing about an exorcism of an individual man. Peter does exorcise a young man in Acts of Peter, XI, but the details do not match those in this painting.

Possibly the exiting demon simply signifies one of the many cures ascribed to Peter in the legends and in Acts 3:1-10. In that case, the pallid man in the background who stops to observe Peter's work could be Simon Magus, who in Acts 8:18-25 is said to have observed the Apostles' power to cure the sick and offered to pay them to give this power to him.

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