France: Haute Maurienne - paulsmit
'Treating the Plague.’

Not only do the frescoes in the Chapelle Saint Sébastien in Lanslevillard reach an astonishing high artistic level, the colours have kept their original saturation as well. This most important work of art in the Haute Maurienne has been painted at the end of the 15th century by artists from Piemonte (now in Italy but then in the same country: Savoy). Its location may seem unexpected: a small village deep in the Alps. But the chapel is situated right at the start of the pass road over the Col du Mont Cenis, in those days one of the main connections between France and Italy.

In those days people prayed to St. Sebastian as protection against the plague. In fact it was a rich bourgeois, who, after staying healthy during an epidemic, paid for the fresco painters, as a way of saying thank you to the saint.

This fresco is one of a series showing the life of St. Sebastian. A doctor, helped by an assistant and the saint's spirit, is piercing a bubo of a woman. The plague was seen as a punishment by god, illustrated by the angel that is inviting a demon to find more sinners. So should we conclude St. Sebastian is working against the will of God? Photo Paul Smit.