Piero della Francesca - The Dream of Constantine the Great

by Alexandra Tuschka

Constantine the Great is a controversial historical figure. On the one hand, he was a ruthless ruler who did not shy away from murdering even his closest relatives; on the other hand, he is a key figure within the development of Christianity. The anecdote tells that a dream is supposed to have given the impulse for this.


In it, a bright cross is said to have appeared to him in the sky. The inscription said: "In this sign you will be victorious! For the battle that followed, Constantine had the cross painted on the shields of his soldiers. He won the battle against the second pretender to the throne, Maxentius.

Piero della Francesca's fresco, along with 11 other episodes of the Legend of the Cross, decorates the chapel of the Church of San Francesco in Arezzo. The yellow curtains of the tent open the view to the sleeping ruler. He is guarded by some soldiers. On the left a back figure leads into the picture and at the upper corner of the picture an angel symbolizes the divine inspiration. Only the soldier in the center has his head resting in his arm. He does not seem to have such an exciting vision.


Piero della Francesca - The Dream of Constantine the Great

Fresco, 1452-1466, n.d., San Francesco in Arezzo