Fresco by Neri di Bicci, Santa Trinita, Florence
“While a thirst of worldly pleasure kept possession of his desires, and seemed to him innocent, and while he thought a certain degree of worldly pride the privilege of his birth, he was a stranger to the gospel maxims of penance, meekness, and lowliness of heart; and all arguments of virtue lost their force upon him. But God was pleased, by a remarkable accident, to open his eyes, and to discover to him his errors, and the extent of his obligations” Butler’s The Lives of the Saints
Saint John Gaulbert, the would-be murderer who became a saint.
When his brother Hugo was murdered, John vowed to avenge his death and followed the murderer accompanied by armed men on Good Friday. Having cornered the killer, he pounced….
The killer prostrated himself in the form of the Cross and begged for mercy in the name of Christ. John taken aback, forgave him. On going into the Benedictine Church in San Miniato, the figure of Christ on the crucifix bowed His head to him.
John built a small monastery in Valle Ombrosa in Tuscany and created the Order of Vallombrosa. He was known for his piety, humility and charity and for his reforming zeal, abolishing simony in his area.
The story of the encounter with Christ on the Cross is the basis of Burne-Jones’ painting ‘The Merciful Knight’:
Image rights top picture here.