Peter of Verona Exorcises a Statue

Four scenes from the life of St. Peter of Verona, also known as Peter Martyr, are depicted in frescoes at the Portinari Chapel, at the Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio, Milan. One of these shows an incident from his life in which he exorcised a possessed statue of the infant Jesus and the Blessed Mother, complete with devil horns.

There is very little information about the incident. One study of miracles attributed to Peter indicates that his reputation as an exorcist was secondary to the healings attributed to him. Maybe the painting was meant to encourage him?

Saint Peter Martyr Exorcizing a Demon-Possessed Statue of the Virgin and Child, Vincenzo Foppa, 1468, fresco. Portinari Chapel, Sant’Eustachio, Milan

As if the painting and incident are not strange enough, there’s this: the frescoes were the work of Renaissance master Vincenzo Foppa, yet were hidden under layers of plaster until 1952, when they were carefully recovered. The chapel also contains the tomb of Peter Martyr.

Veduta della Cappella Portinari della chiesa di Sant’Eustorgio a Milano. (Creative Commons)

Peter Martyr was an inquisitor who preached against heresey. On Palm Sunday 1252, he was assassinated by two hitmen hired by the Cathars of Milan. After they struck off a piece of his skull with an axe, he recited the opening words of the Apostles Creed and fell to the ground. Some stories say that he wrote  “Credo in Unum Deum” in blood as he lay dying. When his assassin, Carino of Balsamo, saw that the blow to head had not finished his victim, he stabbed him, which is why Peter often is show with both instruments of matrydom, as so:

Lorenzo Lotto: Madonna and Child with St. Peter Martyr

His assassin fled to a Dominican monastery, repented, did penance, and is venerated as Blessed Carino Pietro of Balsamo.