Posted by: fvbcdm | February 18, 2013

Comm. of Blessed John of Fiesole (18 Feb 2013)

We Dominicans can do some justified bragging today, because it is the commemoration day of Blessed John of Fiesole, better known to the world, especially the world of fine art, as Fra Angelico: the Angelic Friar. He was born and raised in the hilltop village of Fiesole, just north of the wonderful city of Florence in Italy. He was baptized Guido, but on becoming a Dominican novice, he was given the religious name of John of the Angels — an appropriate name since he would be known to history as the Angelic painter. One of his confreres there in the Florence and Fiesole region was Saint Antoninus who became archbishop of Florence; another was the famous Savonarola who governed Florence as the power-behind-the-municipal-throne for some years.

Saint Antoninus commissioned the immensely talented young painter to embellish the Dominican priory of Saint Mark with his frescoes. So today, the world can visit that wonderful building which has been turned into a state museum, and there see the small paintings in each of the cells, or bedrooms, of the priests and brothers of those days, and the in the public rooms and staircases, the much larger paintings of the annunciation, the crucifixion, etc. And just a block away from Saint Mark (or San Marco as it is called in Italian) is the museum in which the incomparable white marble statue of David by Michelangelo is on display—certainly one of the most beautiful statues in the world.

When the Pope heard of the beauty of Fra Angelico’s works, he summoned him to Rome to decorate one of the chapels in the Vatican. There he died in our Dominican priory of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, and there he is buried, just a few steps away in the church from the tomb under the main altar of Saint Catherine of Siena, his and our Dominican sister.

It’s interesting to observe how many human beings have artistic talent, and how many have the urge to draw or sculpt or paint images on any surface they can find. Pictorial art can be a blessing or a curse. We have Fra Angelico in Florence and Rome, and we have all the billboards on American highways and the graffiti spray-painted on railroad cars, subway trains, and walls across the world. Some art gives glory to God and does honor to its producers; some is simply the defacement of a nice blank wall, and cannot be called “art” in the real sense of the word.

But, we can be grateful that the world is brightened by good, sometimes great, art, in the form of painting, sculpture, engineering, and music. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.

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