Caravaggio’s violent exploits led him to Malta, where he would seek absolution from The Knights of St. John, and paint some of his most celebrated works.
Despite his artistic success, Caravaggio’s personal life was marked by a series of tumultuous events. He was known for his fiery temper, involvement in brawls, and various legal troubles. In 1606, he was involved in a fatal altercation, leading to his escape from Rome and a life of exile and constant movement across various Italian cities.
Throughout his life, Caravaggio produced a considerable body of work, ranging from religious and mythological scenes to portraits and still life paintings. His art had a profound impact on the artists of his time and beyond, and his style laid the foundation for the Baroque movement in art.
Caravaggio’s short and intense life seems thoroughly entwined with his art; physicality, passion, the contrast of light and dark; all are terms that could arguably describe the painter as much as the paintings. Notoriously aggressive, his behaviour was often overlooked by the authorities due to the high influence of his patrons, but when he killed a man in 1606 a price on his head caused him to flee Rome for Naples and then Malta to seek protection and amnesty with the Knights of St. John.
Knights of St.John
The Knights of St. John, also known as the Knights of St. Malta, were the last surviving outpost of the network of military religious orders that evolved in the time of the crusades. After being driven out of Rhodes by the Ottoman Empire in 1522, the Knights of St. John retrenched in Malta and increased their fortifications on the island. Caravaggio, known for walking Rome with a sword at his side, saw the potential for absolution from these knights who had dedicated their lives to God by serving him as soldiers.
The Grand Master of the Order, Alof de Wignacourt, was evidently impressed by the arrival of the precocious artist, who at the time was most famous painter in Rome. He admitted him to the service and commissioned The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (1608) as an altarpiece. This painting was amongst the largest Caravaggio would ever paint, with life-size figures inhabiting the huge space of the canvas. It is also the only painting Caravaggio ever signed – in this case, done with the red blood pouring from St John’s severed neck and signed F. Michelangelo. The F is for Fra, brother, signifying is new religious affiliation. Like the Knights whose order he now belonged to, it was as if the sword had finally brought him closer to God.
Short stint in the religious order
His attempt at spiritual devotion to a quieter life within a religious order did not last, and he was imprisoned just a few months later, following a violent brawl with other knights. Remarkably, he managed to escape from the castle and leave the island unnoticed. He was expelled from the Order in absentia but left the Knights of Malta with some of his most important paintings, including the huge The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (1608), and the Portrait of Alof de Wignacourt with his Page (c. 1607-1608). The paintings no longer travel, and for those wanting to see them face to face, a journey to Malta is the only way.
Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.