After Caravaggio killed a man in a duel, a bando capitale was issued against him. The penalty: beheading! He escaped from Rome, travelled to Naples and then sailed to Malta, which was then ruled by the Knights of St John, known as the Knights of Malta. He resided in the island for fifteen months and was accepted within the folds of this noble Order on completing the requirement of one-year residence in the “convent”.
The Grand Master was very anxious to see Caravaggio become a Knight of Malta. His solicitations with his ambassadors in Rome to press for a favourable answer from the Vatican and his cryptic correspondence with the Pope are ample proof of this. The Pope’s exceptional acquiescence, in spite of a murder in Caravaggio curriculum vitae, adds much flavour to discussion.
Shortly after his knighthood, Caravaggio was again in trouble. He was arrested and imprisoned but mysteriously managed to escape. As a result, he was formally “deprived of his habit, and expelled and thrust forth like a rotten and fetid limb” from the Order.
Philip Farrugia Randon narrates Caravaggio’s eventful stay in Malta by injecting life to all relative documentation known to date, discussing probabilities, placing the artist in a living context and examining the paintings he completed within this period.