Fiesole, Guido da (Fra Angelico), Bl.
FIESOLE, GUIDO DA (FRA ANGELICO), BL.
Baptised Guido di Pietro (his father's name was Pietro); also known as Guido da Fiesole and Giovanni da Fiesole (John Faesulanus); Dominican priest and Florentine painter; b. near Vicchio di Mugello, Tuscany, Italy, c. 1386–87; d. La Minerva Friary, Rome, Italy, Feb. 18, 1455.
Guido was already a recognized artist at age 20, when he entered the Dominican monastery at Fiesole with his brother Benedetto. He took the religious name John of the Angels. Shortly thereafter, because of the Great Western Schism, Fra Giovanni and his brother (adherents to the Avignon claimant, Gregory XII) left Fiesole for the Dominican convent in Foligno, Umbria. The brothers moved to Cortonna to escape the pestilence that ravaged Foligno, and four years later made their way back to Fiesole where Giovanni remained for the next sixteen years.
As a young friar he worked at illuminating manuscripts such as the Dominican Diurnal 3 (Laurentian Library, Florence), while his brother completed an exquisite set of choir books. From 1409, he continued his studies and was ordained priest at Fiesole in 1418. In the 1440s, he was appointed prior of San Marco (Florence), which he decorated with his paintings, and he held that office for three years. Pope Eugene IV wished to appoint him archbishop of Florence, but he declined in favor of Saint Antoninus.
Among his works are "Coronation of the Virgin" (Uffizi, Florence); "Last Judgment"; and "Deposition from the Cross" (1433, S. Marco Museum, Florence). He also painted the frescoes in the cloister and cells of the remodeled monastery of S. Marco (1437), Florence.
During the last ten years of his life, Angelico was much in demand. In 1445, Eugene IV summoned him to the Vatican to work on the frescoes in the chapel of the Sacrament. These frescoes were later destroyed. In 1447, he began the "Last Judgment" frescoes in the S. Brixio Chapel, Orvieto cathedral (finished years later by Signorelli), but was summoned again to the Vatican by Nicholas V to paint scenes from the lives of SS. Stephen and Lawrence in the Nicholas Chapel. In 1449, he returned to Fiesole to become prior of San Domenico. He returned to Rome to finish work there, and it was there he died. The body of Bl. Fra Angelico now rests in S. Maria sopra Minerva, Rome.
John Paul II issued a motu proprio, Oct. 3, 1982, granting a liturgical cultus to the Dominicans for Fra Angelico, long known as il beato Angelico because of his "angelic" moral virtues. The Holy Father wrote: "[E]ven today his art makes the way to God more accessible for us. And this is the purpose of sacred art….the time has arrived to place him in his proper light in Church of God, to which he still continues to speak through his heavenly art." In 1984, he was declared patron of artists by Pope John Paul II.
Feast: Feb. 18 (Dominicans).
Bibliography: Acta Apostolicae Sedis 75 (1983) 796–99. v. alce, Angelicus pictor: vita, opere e teologia del Beato Angelico (Bologna 1993). u. baldini, Beato Angelico (Florence 1986). k. bering, Fra Angelico: Mittelalterlicher Mystiker oder Maler der Renaissance? (Essen 1984). g. didi-huberman, Fra Angelico: Dissemblance & Figuration, tr. j. m. todd (Chicago 1995). g. fallani, Vita e opere di fra Giovanni Angelico (Florence 1984). j. &m. guillaud, Fra Angelico: The Light of the Soul (New York 1986). c. gilbert, A Renaissance Image of the End of the World: Fra Angelico and Signorelli at Orvieto (University Park, Pa. 2001). a. hertz, Fra Angelico (Freiburg im Breisgau 1981). j. w. popehennessy, Fra Angelico (Riverside, N.Y. 1990). m. salmi, Il beato Angelico (Spoleto 1958). j. t. spike, Fra Angelico (New York 1996). c. b. strehlke, Angelico (Milan 1998). g. vasari, Lives of the Artists; Biographies of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects of Italy, abridged and edited by b. burroughs (New York 1946). i. venchi, Fra Angelico and the Chapel of Nicholas V (Vatican City 1999).
[e. t. de wald/eds.]