Catholic Culture News
Catholic Culture News

91—The Temptation of St. Anthony—Elizabeth Lev

By Catholic Culture Podcast ( bio - articles - email ) | Nov 13, 2020 | In The Catholic Culture Podcast

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The trials of St. Anthony the Great (251-356 AD), as described in St. Athanasius’s Life and the medieval Golden Legend, have been a favorite subject of Western artists since the Middle Ages. Anthony, a desert monk, was frequently assaulted by Satan, who when he could not win by normal temptations, sent his demons in the form of wild beasts, beautiful women, soldiers and even monks to torment and distract the Desert Father.

Artists have long been fascinated with these episodes, finding in them an opportunity for the most outlandish feats of imagination. In this episode, Catholic art historian Elizabeth Lev traces the development of this artistic subject from the Middle Ages on, with special attention to the phantasmagorical work of Hieronymous Bosch. From Bosch we proceed through the intervening centuries to the modern era, where this theme was taken up again but perhaps not in the most edifying spirit.

In this podcast (the YouTube version of which includes images of the paintings), the first 40 minutes or so are spent introducing the story of St. Anthony and examining some early medieval depictions as well as later ones which focus heavily on his traditional attributes. Then we take off with the increasingly complex depictions of Anthony’s demonic trials, starting with Bosch, examine various early modern variations, and conclude with the nightmarish (yet spiritually distinct) visions of Max Ernst and Salvador Dali.


Zip file with all paintings shown in video

Elizabeth Lev, How Catholic Art Saved the Faith

Elizabeth Lev

Our audiobook of St. Athanasius’s Life of St. Anthony

St. Anthony’s life and legacy as one of the Church Fathers

Koin—Catholic event planning app

Theme music: “Franciscan Eyes”, written and performed by Thomas Mirus. Download the Catholic Culture Podcast soundtrack.

Thomas V. Mirus is Director of Podcasts for, hosts The Catholic Culture Podcast, and co-hosts Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast. See full bio.

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