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Life of Fra Angelico

Blessed Fra Angelico was a Dominican priest in Italy who lived in the early 1400s.  First known as Guido di Pero, he was born in Mugello in the vicinity of Vicchio, Italy between 1395 and 1400.  In 1418, Guido received his first payment for one of his creations – an altarpiece – in a chapel in Florence.  There he received training from Ambrogio di Baldese.  He joined the community of San Domenico between 1418 and 1421, where he took the religious name “Giovanni”.  Dominicans are an order of preachers, who also needed places for private study, prayer and reflection to gather their thoughts for their public preaching.  Thus, in Dominican monasteries, each friar was given a private small bedroom or cell with a bed, a desk, chair, and a kneeler.  Additionally, each friar had a religious picture in his cell to contemplate.  Fra Angelico was assigned to paint pictures in the cells and corridors of the monastery.  He also painted in various churches and chapels.

In choosing the subject matter for his paintings, Fra Angelico followed in the footsteps of the founder of his order, St. Dominic.  It was to St. Dominic that Our Blessed Mother gave the rosary in 1214.  St. Dominic became a Missionary of the Holy Rosary as did priests of his order, including Fra Angelico.

Friar Giovanni’s work was so beautiful that he came to be called “Fra Angelico” because of its almost angelic quality.  He carried on the mission of the Dominicans by expressing his love and understanding of the Mysteries of the Rosary in his beautiful works of art.

Many of the Mysteries of the Rosary as rendered by Fra Angelico are reproduced in St. Mark Church as exact replicas of his paintings.  As a result, this Shrine is dedicated to Blessed Fra Angelico under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary.

Fra Angelico died in Rome in February 1455, a few weeks before his patron, Pope Nicholas V.  The epitaph for his tomb in the Dominican Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva reads in part:

“A religious, he was a brother of the holy order of St. Dominic, and was himself a true servant of God.  His disciples bewail the loss of so great a master, for who will find another brush like his?  His fatherland and his order lament the death of a consummate painter, who had no equal in his art.”