1347. Late September. Messina, Sicily. Twelve Genoese galleys arrive unannounced, and drop anchor in its bay.
A few sailors struggle ashore, bearing a cargo on their backs; a terrible cargo that the world had never known before; a cargo of 'death' so virulent nothing could withstand or allay it: not fortress walls, not the swords and arrows of armies; not charms, herbs, or desperate flight; not the relics of Saints; not the prayers of the devout.
Thus begins the greatest pandemic in recorded history, one of apocalyptic, Biblical proportions that men would believe was God's judgment of their iniquities; leaving nearly half of Europe dead in the wake of its wrathful scourge.
Brother Ludovico has researched and painted a graphic, lurid picture of the 'Black Death', and the Great Famines that preceded it, as they swept through 14th century Italy. He has painted it with the rhyming descriptions of two men with antithetical natures: one, a learned theologian, an eminent abbot and scholar; the other, a friend of the abbot's youth, an apostate who is a lover of wine, taverns, and the arms of women. Both men find themselves faced with the harsh immediacy of death, and both strive to find meaning in the gruesome havoc with which God is ending Man's world.
A story of the soul, told with the voice of the soul, a poignant poetry that tells the existential dilemma in each of us.....a story of
the battles of flesh with spirit, belief with its abandon, the fragility
of life with the iron certainty of death.....the myths of love with our first and final, utter aloneness.
When asked about 'Brother Maria':
"A kind of poetic reliquary of Man's Past; a kind of allegory of the plagues loosed on his Present; a kind of hope, perhaps the only hope for his Future."