Fr. Rusty's Corner

Turn Four: Thoughts from Your Parish Priest

Fra Angelico

 

It is good to be back in Vicksburg, and it has been over two weeks since my last article.  The last couple of weeks, I have been on vacation with two of my seminary buddies in Italy.  More specifically, in Northern Italy in the Tuscany region.  We spent two days seeing many magnificent artworks in Florence, and one of my favorites was going to the San Marco and seeing the frescos of Fra Angelico.  While there, I was a bit shocked that my two friends did not know who Fra Angelico was.  In fact, one of them thought only of the drink Frangelico; he then spent the rest of the trip looking for it so I could try it (we did not find it so I never had a chance to drink it).  With this, I wanted to share with everyone who Fra Angelico is and why he is important to art and the Church.

Fra Angelico was both an artist and a Dominican monk who lived in Florence during the Renaissance period.  The name Fra Angelico is Italian for “angelic brother.”  He began his art career illustrating manuscripts, missals, and choir books for the religious brothers.  In seeing his talent, eventually he began to do larger works of art.  After spending several years studying his trade across Italy, he returned to Florence to paint the new Monastery of San Marco under the patronage of Cosmo de’ Medici.  It was at the monastery that he painted many of his most famous works of the Annunciation (seen below), as well as his depiction of the Last Supper (also seen below).  He painted in each individual room of the monks a scene from scripture so that each of them could have an image upon which to reflect. 

 

            Fra Angelico's "The Annunciation"                                      Fra Angelico's "The Last Supper"

Upon completion of the art in San Marco, he went to Rome and served under many popes painting several chapels there.  Due to his work, Pope Eugenius offered Fra Angelico the position of Archbishop of Florence, which at the time of the Renaissance would have been a position of high prestige in the Church.  Fra Angelico declined the position because of his desire to remain a simple monk and continue to focus on his art.

His major contribution during the Renaissance and the Church was his combination of classical religious art with the styles of the Renaissance.  Prayer was a major influence in his art. He felt for one to depict Christ in art, the person needed to seek to be Christlike in his life.  He would pray throughout the process of the work.  Though many artists during the time period depicted religion in the Renaissance style, Fra Angelico was unique in applying the style and perspective in such a spiritual approach in keeping traditional religious art.  With this style, Fra Angelico invites the viewer to not only appreciate the beauty of the art, but he also invites the view into the spiritual reality of the faith itself. 

Here are some more of the works of Fra Angelico that I saw during my trip. 

 

              Fra Aneglico's "Coronation of the Virgin"                      Fra Angelico's "Man of Sorrows [with Instruments of the Passion]"

                                     

                    Fra Angelico's "Crucifixion with the Virgin and Sts Cosmas, John the Evangelist and Peter Martyr"

- Fr. Rusty Vincent


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