This painting, once part of the predella, or sequence of images, on the base of a large altarpiece is designed as a narrative to be read in the manner of a cartoon strip. The scene is the interior of a typical 15th century church. The congregation, to the left, are looking on in horror at the scene unfolding to the right of the composition. A young Carmelite monk has been struck dead at the altar. His cloak has turned black and a devil is snatching his soul from his mouth.
It was taught by the Church that a person accepting the communion bread and wine during Mass must believe that they had been transformed during the ceremony into the body and blood of Christ. The Carmelite monk in this painting is not a true believer and has thus suffered a terrible consequence. The scene was intended as a teaching tool and dire warning for the congregation kneeling below the altar.