The Flight into Egypt
Based on the Gospel of Matthew (2:13-15), the narrative of "The Flight into Egypt" received rich elaboration in apocryphal Gospels, such as the Gospel of Thomas and of the Pseudo-Matthew. The fresco in the abbey Basilica shows Joseph carrying a walking stick and bindlestiff and wearing a Greek traveling hat. He leads the Virgin Mary, who is seated on a donkey and cradling the sleeping Christ Child. Following them is an angel, whose flowing tunic reflects the forward motion of Joseph and the donkey. Of this nocturnal flight in Egypt (note the eclipsed moon in the upper right corner of the panel) Matthew writes: "This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, 'Out of Egypt I have called my son.'"
An intriguing detail of this panel is the crumbling idol that falls from its pedestal as the Holy Family passes. This is an elaboration from the Gospel narrative. The idol is based on Thoth, the Egyptian baboon or monkey god of mathematics, writing, and wisdom. The idol clutches a broken writing instrument and contrasts with the Christ Child as Word of God and Wisdom.
At the base of the column, between the hind feet of the donkey is the date 1896, the year in which the fresco was painted.
Lilies of the valley blossom at the feet of the Blessed Mother while poisonous mushrooms grow near the column. The donkey shown here is the only complete animal of the Basilica's art (with the exception of birds), but its legs are not painted in the proper position for walking.