Blessed Fra Angelico OP (Blessed John of Fiesole) 1395-1455

Fra Angelico The Annunciation, Convent San Marco, Florence c.1450

Today, the Church keeps the memory of the artist, Blessed John of Fiesole, more commonly known as Fra Angelico, who was beatified by Bld. John Paul II on October 3rd 1982, and in 1984 made a patron of artists, though his memory and sanctity have always been celebrated on this day, the anniversary of his death, in the Dominican Order. He belonged to the community at Fiesole and then at San Marco in Florence during the height of the early Renaissance. There are a number of Renaissance artists who were religious, friars or monks, including Lorenzo Monaco, Fra Filippo Lippi and Fra Bartolomeo, but it is Fra Angelico who is singled out for his sanctity and for his ability to convey a religious vision with skill, simplicity and clarity.

He is most well known for his work in the Convent of San Marco in Florence, but he also completed many paintings for the convent at Fiesole previous to this, many of which are now in galleries and museums throughout the world. He worked in the cathedral of Orvieto and was also called to paint in Rome by Pope Eugene IV and he continued to work for Pope Nicholas V. He died in Rome and is buried in the Dominican priory church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, in Rome.There are a number of studies of his work in English:

Diana Cole-Ahl: Fra Angelico. London 2008

George Didi-Huberman: Fra Angelico: Dissemblance and Figuration Chicago 1995

William Hood: Fra Angelico at San Marco Yale 1993

Sarah James: Signorelli and Fra Angelico at Orvieto: Liturgy, Poetry and a Vision of the End Aldershot 2003

Laurence B. Kanter: Fra Angelico. Metropolitan Museum of Art catalogue New York 2005

John T. Spike: Fra Angelico, New York 1997

Vatican Editions: Fra Angelico and the Chapel of Nicholas V,  Vatican 1999

There are many others in Italian which I am unfamiliar with apart from a brief introduction by Mgr Timothy Verdon and a comprehensive study by Eugenio Marino OP;’ Il Beato Angelico’ (2001) He was the Prior of the Dominican convent in Fiesole 1960-63,  and then member of the community of Santa Maria Novella in Florence.

One of the collects for this day from the Dominican Sacramentary is as follows:

God of eternal beauty,by your ineffable grace Fra Angelico studied and taught the mystery of your Word. With the help of his prayers may we be led at last to contemplate the radiance of your majesty face to face. We ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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