St. Benedict's Conversation with Scholastica
The south transept frescoes depict the story of Benedict's visit to his sister Scholastica before her death, and the funeral procession afterward. Both narratives are found in Book II of the Dialogues of Pope Gregory I the Great.
The story of "Benedict's Visit to his Sister Scholastica" is one of the more popular stories about the saint found in the Dialogues. Benedict and Scholastica customarily visited each other once a year. They spent the day in spiritual conversation and in the evening shared supper. While they were still at the table, Scholastica asked Benedict to postpone his departure to spend the night discussing spiritual life with her. Horrified at the thought of spending the night away from his monastery, he refused her request. Scholastica put her head down on the table and began to weep. At that moment, a torrential thunderstorm struck. The powerful storm caused Benedict and his fellow monks to delay their trip as Scholastica had asked. She and her brother spent the night discussing heavenly topics.
The fresco on the east of the transept presents the narrative in triptych form: the central panel shows Benedict seated with his Rule in hand, accompanied by two confreres, one of whom carries his pastoral staff. Benedict faces his sister, who is seated at a table with two nuns. On the table in Roman numerals is carved the date, 1898.
Above the central scene is a passage from Philippians, "Conversatio nostra in coelis est" (3:20), a reference to the discussion of spiritual matters taking place between the two saints. The left side of the panel shows a kitchen area in which a curtain is blowing open to reveal a jagged lightning bolt. The other side of the mural shows an outdoor scene and another bolt of lightning. Note that one of the monks is regarding the tempest outside with some apprehension.
Gregory the Great tells us that three days after the storm, Benedict, standing in his cell, saw his sister's soul leave her body and enter the secret recesses of heaven. Benedict ordered the brethren to carry her body to him, and he placed it in the tomb he had prepared for himself.