Thursday, February 18th, 2010
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.
During his General Audience address on February 10, Pope Benedict reflected on the life and witness of one of the Church’s most popular saints, the thirteenth-century Franciscan Anthony of Padua. Posted below are the Holy Father’s remarks.
GENERAL AUDIENCE ADDRESS
February 10, 2010
Dear brothers and sisters,
After presenting two weeks ago the figure of Francis of Assisi, this morning I would like to speak about another saint belonging to the first generation of Friars Minor: Anthony of Padua or, as he is also called, of Lisbon, referring to his native city. He is one of the most popular saints in the whole Catholic Church, venerated not only in Padua, where a splendid basilica was built, which houses his mortal remains, but in the whole world. Dear to the faithful are images and statues that represent him with the lily, symbol of purity, or with the Child Jesus in his arms, in memory of a miraculous apparition mentioned in some literary sources.
Anthony contributed in a significant way to the development of Franciscan spirituality, with his outstanding gifts of intelligence, balance, apostolic zeal and, mainly, mystical fervor.
He was born in Lisbon of a noble family around 1195 and was baptized with the name Fernando. He entered the canons who followed the monastic rule of St. Augustine, first in the monastery of St. Vincent in Lisbon, and subsequently in that of the Holy Cross in Coimbra, renown cultural center of Portugal. He dedicated himself with interest and solicitude to the study of the Bible and of the Fathers of the Church, acquiring that theological science that he made fructify in the activities of teaching and preaching.
The episode that marked a decisive change in his life took place in Coimbra: In 1220 the relics were exposed there of the first five Franciscan missionaries who had gone to Morocco, where they met with martyrdom. Their case aroused in young Fernando the desire to imitate them and to advance in the way of Christian perfection: He then asked to leave the Augustinian canons and become a Friar Minor. His request was accepted and, taking the name Anthony, he also left for Morocco, but Divine Providence willed otherwise. As the consequence of an illness, he was obliged to return to Italy and, in 1221, he took part in the famous “Chapter of the mats” in Assisi, where he also met St. Francis. Subsequently, he lived for a time totally hidden in a convent near Forli, in the north of Italy, where the Lord called him to another mission. Invited, by totally accidental circumstances, to preach on the occasion of a priestly ordination, he showed he was gifted with such learning and eloquence that the superiors destined him to preaching. Thus he began in Italy and France such an intense and effective apostolic activity that he induced not a few persons who had separated from the Church to retrace their steps. He was also among the first teachers of theology of the Friars Minor, if not even the first. He began his teaching in Bologna, with Francis’ blessing who, recognizing Anthony’s virtues, sent him a brief letter with these words: “I would like you to teach theology to the friars.” Anthony set the foundations of Franciscan theology that, cultivated by other famous figures of thinkers, came to its zenith with St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio and Blessed Duns Scotus.