Born in Florence, Italy, around the year 993, Giovanni Gualberto was born into a noble family, and led a predictably frivolous life as a youth, being concerned only with the pursuit of vain amusements and romantic intrigues.
However, when he was still a young man, his elder brother Ugo was murdered, and Giovanni was so overtaken with grief that he vowed to avenge him. His only desire was to find the murderer and kill him.
One day – it was Good Friday – as he was riding through the town, Giovanni spotted his brother’s murderer and drew his sword to kill him. The man fell to his knees and begged for mercy. At this instant Giovanni had a vision of Christ on the Cross, and powerfully moved by the example of the love of Christ who forgave His enemies, and he did the same.
Giovanni entered the Benedictine church at San Miniato al Monte to pray and the figure on the crucifix is said to have bowed its head to him in recognition of his generous and merciful act. Giovanni begged pardon of his sins and that week cut off his hair and began to wear an old habit that he had borrowed. This tale forms the subject of Burne-Jones’s picture “The Merciful Knight” and Shorthouse adapted this in “John Inglesant”.Read More »