The hidden face of the devil found after 700 years in the famous Italian fresco

18. 08. 2021
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The Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Italy is one of the most important churches in the world. It was built in the 13th century and boasts a stunning number of stained glass windows and medieval frescoes.


Even at the time of its construction, there was actually a bit of controversy, because some felt that its opulent works of art were at odds with the deep belief in the spiritual power of poverty that St. Francis attributed.

The earthquake in 1997 caused considerable damage to the church, which had been a place of pilgrimage for centuries, and required several years of careful repairs and restoration work. During these works on the church and its works of art, it was discovered that one of the frescoes is marked with the initials GB. This led historians to believe that the author of the paintings was Giotto di Bondone.


In the chapel of St. Nicholas in the basilica there are several frescoes, which are believed to be the work of Giotto. These include the Madonna and Child and works depicting John the Baptist and St. Francis of Assisi. When the city of Assisi was hit by an earthquake, which damaged the basilica and led to the need for repairs and restoration, the chapel was not open to the public. It was rarely used by monks who call the church their home.

This closer examination led to the discovery of a secret in one of the frescoes, which, as far as is known, remained undiscovered throughout the 700 years of the church's existence. According to The Telegraph, the devil's face is grimacing in the clouds. The face has remained undetected because it is relatively well hidden in the cloud and is essentially invisible to those standing on the ground. It was discovered by the medievalist Chiara Frugoni, who is also an expert on St. Francis.

"This is a huge portrait with a hooked nose, sunken eyes and two dark corners," Ms. Frugoni quoted in an article for a magazine devoted to the history of art. František “The meaning of the painting still needs to be penetrated.

Demons and their influence

In the Middle Ages, it was believed that these demons lived in the sky and that they could prevent human souls from ascending to heaven. "The remarkability of the find lies in part in the fact that before the discovery of this fresco, it was thought that the depiction of figures hidden in the clouds began to be used only in 1460. That is, almost two centuries later.

In this case, the image of St. Sebastian depicts a knight on horseback rising from a cloud high in the sky. Today, historians know that this technique was first used by Giotto. The practice of inserting hidden figures or symbols into paintings was not uncommon during the Renaissance, especially in works of religious art. Images could often have multiple meanings, which became clear only after careful study and contemplation.


Giotto was an Italian painter and architect who is generally considered one of the fathers of the Italian Renaissance. During his career, he painted frescoes in several different churches and cathedrals in Italy. Frescoes are paintings created on wet plaster. When the paint is applied to wet plaster, it becomes part of the plaster. Thanks to this, the frescoes are durable over time, which was often missing in paintings on a dry surface, and the paint could easily crack or peel off over time.

Giotto was also known for his portraits of St. Francis. However, he became most famous for initiating a huge shift in the style in which painters depicted their motifs. Medieval art before Giotto was usually very stylized.

The paintings were painted in very vivid colors. They were significantly two-dimensional and did not make much use of perspective.

Giotto was one of the first to break this stylistic trend. He painted "naturally" and tried to imprint depth, movement and emotion on people in his paintings. Now Giotto also seems to have started a trend in the art world of his time, hiding Satan in the clouds.

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