SIMONE MARTINI
(b. 1280/85, Siena, d. 1344, Avignon)

Meditation (scene 6)

1320-25
Fresco, 390 x 200 cm
Cappella di San Martino, Lower Church, San Francesco, Assisi

The episodes depicted in the middle level illustrate the last part of the saint's life, after 371 when Martin was nominated Bishop of Tours, as we can see from his mitre. In the bay to the left of the entrance we find the scene of the Meditation. In a state of profound spiritual ecstasy, Martin sits on a simple faldstool (the same one that Emperor Julian was sitting on in the scene of Martin renouncing arms), while two acolytes try to bring him back to reality so he can celebrate mass in the chapel nearby: one of them is shaking him gently, and the other is handing him his missal. The two architectural spaces, parallel but of different depth, are geometrically so simple and bare that they appear to reflect the Saint's mood of profound absorption in prayer: the only decorative elements are the horizontal Greek key design on the wall and the quatrefoiled ornament in the arch above the mullioned windows.

Recently this scene was interpreted in another way. According to this interpretation the scene represents the Dream of St Ambrose, a premonition of the saint's death on the part of the bishop of Milan.