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Subiaco Monastery: Triumph of Death (Detail)

Triumph of Death (Detail)

From St. Gregory's Chapel, the Holy Stairs (Scala Santa) lead down to Our Lady's Chapel. The walls of the stairway are decorated with large frescoes by the Sienese artists who adorned the first half of the Upper Church. Death is the main theme here, probably because the stairs led to the monks' cemetery. On the right wall is Death himself, a skeleton with flowing hair riding a white horse. Against a dark yellow background, he strikes an unsuspecting young man with his spear and tramples bodies of those he has already taken. Behind him, impoverished old people plead for death but are ignored.

Credit: David Joyal