Giovanni Francesco da Rimini, St. James Saves the Hanged Man

Second half of the 15th century
Tempera on wood panel
Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome

This painting conflates two miracle stories, one from a book of St. James's miracles dubiously attributed to Pope Callistus II and the other from the legend of St. Dominic de la Calzada.

In the first story, a man and his son stop in Toulouse on their way to Compostela. Knowing he can profit from their death, the innkeeper falsely accuses them of theft. The son is hanged, the innkeeper is awarded the men's possessions, and the distraught father continues on to Campostela. But when he returns he finds his son alive: St. James has been holding him up to keep him from dying on the gallows. The man informs the townspeople, and the innkeeper is himself condemned to death.

Dominic de la Calzada's legend is similar, but the protagonists include the son's mother and it is St. Dominic and the Virgin Mary who have been preserving the son's life. The couple go to the judge with their story and he replies that it is as likely to be true as the roast chicken on his plate is likely to rise up alive. When the chicken does just that, the judge and the people rush to the gallows and release the young man.

On the right side of Impiccato's painting the pilgrim couple finds their son being held up on the gallows, not by Mary and Dominic but by St. James. Then on the left side they take their story to the judge and a rooster rises up from his plate.

The Latin original of the book by "Callistus" was published in Acta Sanctorum, July vol. 6, 47-59. For an English translation of the St. James section see the Golden Legend #99. For St. Dominic de la Calzada see my page on that saint and Acta Sanctorum, May vol. 3, 166-79.

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Read more about St. James the Greater.
Read more about St. Dominic de la Calzada.

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