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V A FRESCO OF SIGNORELLI
A week later Father Gondo was in Rome. He was granted an interview with the old man in the Vatican and told him how he had found Antichrist in the likeness of Christ, how the former had entangled the people of Diamante in worldliness, and how he, Father Gondo, had wished to burn him. He also told how he had not been able to lead the people back to God. Instead, all Diamante had fallen into unbelief and socialism. No one there cared for his soul; no one thought of heaven. Father Gondo asked what he should do with those unfortunate people.

The old pope, who is wiser than any one now living, did not laugh at Father Gondo’s story; he was deeply distressed by it.

“You have done wrong; you have done very wrong,” he said.

He sat silent for a while and pondered; then he said: “You have not seen the Cathedral in Orvieto?”—“No, Holy Father.”—“Then go there now and see it,” said the pope; “and when you come back again, you shall tell me what you have seen there.”

Father Gondo obeyed. He went to Orvieto and saw the most holy Cathedral. And in two days he was back in the Vatican.

[374]

“What did you see in Orvieto?” the pope asked him.

Father Gondo said that in one of the chapels of the Cathedral he had found some frescoes of Luca Signorelli, representing “The Last Judgment.” But he had not looked at either the “Last Judgment” or at the “Resurrection of The Dead.” He had fixed all his attention on the big painting which the guide called “The Miracles of Antichrist.”

“What did you see in it?” asked the pope.

“I saw that Signorelli had painted Antichrist as a poor and lowly man, just as the Son of God was when he lived here on earth. I saw that he had dressed him like Christ and given him Christ’s features.”

“What more did you see?” said the pope.

“The first thing that I saw in the fresco was Antichrist preaching so that the rich and the mighty came and laid their treasures at his feet.

“The second thing I saw was a sick man brought to Antichrist and healed by him.

“The third thing I saw was a martyr proclaiming Antichrist and suffering death for him.

“The fourth thing I saw in the great wall-picture was the people hastening to a great temple of peace, the spirit of evil hurled from heaven, and all men of violence killed by heaven’s thunderbolts.”

“What did you think when you saw that?” asked the pope.

“When I saw it, I thought: ‘That Signorelli was mad. Does he mean that in the time of Antichrist evil shall be conquered, and the earth become holy as a paradise?’”

[375]

“Did you see anything else?”

“The fifth thing I saw depicted in the painting was the monks and priests piled up on a big bonfire and burned.

“And the sixth and last thing I saw was the Devil whispering in Antichrist’s ear, and suggesting to him how he was to act and speak.”

“What did you think when you saw that?”

“I said to myself: ‘That Signorelli is not mad; he is a prophet. Antichrist will certainly come in the likeness of Christ and make a paradise of the world. He will make it so beautiful that the people will forget heaven. And it will be the world’s most terrible temptation.’”

“Do you understand now,” said the pope, “that there was nothing new in all that you told me? The Church has always known that Antichrist would come, armed with the virtues of Christ.”

“Did you also know that he had actually come, Holy Father?” asked Father Gondo.

“Could I sit here on Peter’s chair year after year without knowing that he has come?” said the pope. “I see starting a movement of the people, which burns with love for its neighbor and hates God. I see people becoming martyrs for the new hope of a happy............
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