This bible story of St Paul and the viper - how Paul was shipwrecked on the island of Melita (modern Malta), the locals lit a bonfire to warm the survivors, a viper ran from the fire and attached itself to Paul's arm, Paul shook it off and was unharmed - is told in Acts chapter 28 verse 3. The depiction in the form of a wall painting in St Anselm's chapel dates from around the 1160s (Image 1). A framed modern copy by E W Tristram is attached to the wall outside the chapel (Image 2). The painting was hidden for 700 years before it was revealed during restoration of the chapel in 1888. A companion painting of St Peter on the opposite wall has been lost.
What to see:
St Paul appears on a bright blue background wearing a white tunic and buff mantle with red folds
the movement, poise and solidity of the figure are impressive
the skin tones and the folding of Paul's garments are well depicted with shades of colouring - a distinct advance on wall paintings in St Gabriel's chapel
note the bunch of foggots in Paul's hand, the white snake to the right, and the fire burning in the bottom right corner
Paul's nimbus (halo) would originally have been in gilt, and so much brighter