Wednesday, February 18th, 2009
Lord, my heart is not proud and my eyes are not haughty;
truly I have stilled and quieted my soul.
Today the Dominican Order celebrates the feast of one of its most famous friars, Blessed John of Fiesole, more popularly known as “Fra Angelico.” Like all Dominicans, this priest prayed, celebrated the Divine Mysteries, and contemplated the Divine Word, but instead of using words he preached the Gospel with pictures, holy images on wood and plaster created by his own skilled hand. A pivotal figure in the history of art, Fra Angelico’s works can be seen in convents, churches, and museums around the world.
From the Dominican Ordo:
Guido of Vicchio was born in the region of Tuscany in 1386 or 1387 and studied art in Florence while still a young man. Feeling drawn to religious life he entered the Order at the convent of San Domenico in Fiesole. This convent had recently been established as a house of regular observance by Blessed John Dominic whose name he took when he entered. He served as superior of San Domenico, promoted regular observance and handed on the fruits of his contemplation through his paintings for the altars at Fiesole and for the convent of San Marco in Florence. He was called to Rome by Pope Eugene IV to decorate two chapels, one in the Basilica of St. Paul and one in the Vatican. Pope Nicholas V also commissioned him to decorate his private chapel at the Vatican. His work is also found the convent of San Domenico in Cortona and the Cathedral at Orvieto. Pope Eugene IV wished to appoint him archbishop of Florence, but he declined in favor of Saint Antoninus. On February 18, 1455, he died in Rome at Santa Maria sopra Minerva and was buried there. The special quality of his painting earned him the title “Fra Angelico.”
Identifying his place in the history of art, Grove’s Dictionary of Art (II:30-40) describes the influence Fra Angelico exercised over future generations of painters.
[Fra Angelico] rose from obscure beginnings as a journeyman illuminator to the renown of an artist whose last major commissions were monumental fresco cycles in St Peter’s and the Vatican Palace, Rome. He reached maturity in the early 1430′s, a watershed in the history of Florentine art. None of the masters who had broken new ground with naturalistic painting in the 1420′s was still in Florence by the end of that decade. The way was open for a new generation of painters, and Fra Angelico was the dominant figure among several who became prominent at that time, including Paolo Uccello, Fra Filippo Lipi and Andrea del Castagno. By the early 1430′s Fr Angelico was operating the largest and most prestigious workshop in Florence. His paintings offered alternatives to the traditional polyptych altarpiece type and projected the new naturalism of panel painting on to a monumental scale. In fresco projects of the 1440′s and 1450′s, both for S Marco in Florence and for S Peter’s and the Vatican Palace in Rome, Fra Angelico softened the typically astringent and declamatory style of Tuscan mural decoration with the colouristic and luminescent nuances that characterize his panel paintings. His legacy passed directly to the second half of the 15th century through the work of his close follower Benozzo Gozzoli and indirectly through the production of Domenico Veneziano an dPiero della Francesca. Fra Angelico was undoubtedly the leading master in Rome at mid-century, and had the survival rate of 15th-century Roman painting been greater, his significance for such later artists as Melozzo da Forli and Antoniazzo Romano might be clearer than it is.
God of eternal beauty,
in your providence you inspired Blessed Fra Angelico
to reveal in images of earth
the tranquil harmony of heaven.
With the help of his prayers
and by following his example
may our lives reveal that same splendor
to the hearts of all our brothers and sisters.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Earlier today in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI received US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in a private audience. They met for about fifteen minutes, and afterwards each released a statement reporting the nature of their conversation. Below are the accounts of their meeting.
From the Office of Speaker Pelosi:
It is with great joy that my husband, Paul, and I met with his Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI today.
In our conversation, I had the opportunity to praise the Church’s leadership in fighting poverty, hunger, and global warming, as well as the Holy Father’s dedication to religious freedom and his upcoming trip and message to Israel.
I was proud to show his Holiness a photograph of my family’s Papal visit in the 1950s, as well as a recent picture of our children and grandchildren.
From the Holy See’s Press Office:
Following the General Audience the Holy Father briefly greeted Mrs Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, together with her entourage.
His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church’s consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development.
Is it just me, or are they describing two completely different conversations?