The Temptation of Christ by the Devil

Date: first half 12th century (possibly 1129–34)

Geography: Made in Castile-León, Spain

Culture: Spanish

Medium: Fresco transferred to canvas

Dimensions: 69 1/2 in. × 9 ft. 10 in. (176.5 × 299.7 cm)

Classification: Paintings-Fresco

Credit Line: The Cloisters Collection and Gift of E.B. Martindale, 1961

Accession Number: 61.248


The hermitage of San Baudelio de Berlanga was constructed in the beginning of the eleventh century at the heart of the frontier between Islamic and Christian lands. One hundred fifty years later, its extraordinary palm-vaulted interior was transformed with the addition of two cycles of vibrant paintings: an extensive Christological cycle at the top and scenes of hunting and animals at the bottom, derived from Islamic art. The large figures of the biblical cycle, the clear outlines, and the radiant colors ensured that the story would be legible from the floor. The fresco conflates three episodes from Christ's Temptation. At the left, the Devil dares Christ to turn stones into bread. In the middle, Satan challenges Christ, standing on the gable of the Temple, to throw himself down. The angel talking to a demon at the right refers to the last temptation of Christ, who, after refusing to worship the Devil, is ministered by angels.