St Macarius the Great and the Triumph of Death fresco in Pisa

Saint Macarius the Great, one of the Egyptian desert fathers and a disciple of Saint Anthony the Great is celebrated today (19th of January) in the Orthodox Church. I thought I could contribute to his celebration by posting something about this extraordinary monk.

Saint Macarius The Great, Camposanto, Trionfo Della Morte

Since many have already worked and written on this, I will not talk about his life or his wanders, not even about his homilies or manuscripts of his work. I’d rather mention a not that known fact: He is depicted on the right edge of the Triumph of Death fresco in Pisa.

A group of leisurely aristocrats and their animals occupy the central part of the fresco. These rich young men and women riding horses, surrounded by their decorative hunting dogs have gone on a pleasant journey. Suddenly, their path, somewhere deep in the woods, is barred by three open sarcophagi with bodies in different degrees of decomposition. Everybody in the scene, including the men, women and even the animals are horrified by this terrible and palpable presence of Death. The unsupportable stench hits their noses. The abhorring scene of cruel Truth dismays them. Only Saint Macarius the Great, made wise and powerful by his faith, stands above them all. The mystic Saint teaches the youngsters a lesson about life and death by reading from the scroll.

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