Bardi di Vernio chapel, Santa Croce, Florence

(c. 1340)
   The Bardi di Vernio Chapel was frescoed by Maso di Banco, one of Giotto's pupils and followers. The theme chosen was the story of St. Sylvester, who reigned as pope from 314 to 335 and who cured Emperor Constantine the Great from leprosy by persuading him to convert to Christianity and to close the empire's pagan temples. The cycle begins with the emperor's conversion and ends with the Cleansing of the Roman Capitol of the corruption of pagan Rome. Of the scenes in the chapel, the most often discussed is St. Sylvester Resuscitating Two Deceased Romans, which depicts another of the miracles the saint effected. Two men were killed at the Roman Forum by the breath of a dragon, here read as the symbol of religious ignorance. Sylvester closed the dragon's throat so it would cause no further harm and he then revived the victims, much to the amazement of onlookers. In the fresco, the Roman Forum is rendered not as it looked in the fourth century when the scene occurred, but in its ruinous state of the 14th century when Maso painted it, this to denote the end of the pagan era. It has been suggested that the events from the lives of a pope-saint were chosen to refer to the Bardi as the bankers of the papacy.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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