Archive for the ‘Fra Angelico’ Tag

Feast of Blessed Guido di Pietro, a.k.a. Fra Angelico (February 18)   2 comments

The Day of Judgement, by St. Guido di Pietro (Fra Angelico)

Image in the Public Domain



Roman Catholic Monk and Artist

“Why do we need miracles?  These are his miracles.”

–Pope John Paul II speaking of Fra Angelico’s paintings at the beatification ceremony, 1982

I remember attending a Lay Ministries Conference at Honey Creek, the camp and conference center of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, years ago.  (I attended several of these over time.)  The main speaker at one conference stated an obvious fact:  Much great religious art is Roman Catholic in origin, but very little of such art comes from Low Church Protestant quarters.  Iconoclastic tendencies account for this.  Indeed, Roman Catholicism is a profoundly visual form of Christianity.  And this art is an expression of deep faith.

St. Lawrence Receives the Treasures of the Church, by Fra Angelico

Such is the case with St. Guido di Pietro.  Born in Vicchio, Italy, Guido joined the Dominicans, where he received the nickname Fra Angelico, which means “Angelic Brother.”  He rose to become Prior of the monastery at Fiesole from 1449 to 1552, but the saint’s main legacy and expression of his faith and his holy life was his art.

The Transfiguration, by Fra Angelico

The saint painted exclusively religious subjects, for this was a form of prayer for him.  He painted murals for convents and the Vatican.  And he painted magnificent altar pieces.  And, centuries later, we who live today can admire the beauty and the craftsmanship of the art, as well as what informed it.

The Eastern Orthodox have a profound saying:  “Beauty will save the world.”  We all need beauty.  As I write this sentence I think about the cacophony of shouting matches that is much of the media:  talk radio, many weblogs and other websites, and much of what passes for cable news programming.  There, strong opinions and decibel levels (often in combination) are more highly praised than are objective reality and reasoned discussion.  We need beauty more than ever.  We need to turn off many media outlets, ignore loud and poorly-informed people, and be quiet.  We need to admire art and contemplate poetry.  We need to remember that God is found in quietness, not the sound of the whirlwind.  We need more people like Fra Angelico.

Beauty will save us, if we give it the chance to do so.  This beauty exists in both overtly religious art (of all formats, including music) and secular works.  How often have I melted into a Wagner opera or a Beethoven symphony?  Too many times to count.  And I have become one with some Shostakovich works.  I have found God in all these places (and many more very much like it), too.

Now, instead of choosing the standard collect and readings for an artist, as found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, the 2006 hymnal and worship book of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I provide my own.  Readings that have some bearing specifically on the saint are a better choice.

Beloved God, you are the Lord and Master of all that is beautiful and ennobling.  May we rejoice in the example of Fra Angelico and all others whose creative output is a form of prayer.  And may we encourage such prayer as we have opportunity to do so, and engage in ourselves, if you have called us to that good work.  For you are the sculptor of our talents, and we are your handiwork.  In the name of God, who continues to create.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9

Psalm 96

Philippians 4:4-9

Matthew 22:34-40






Revised on December 2, 2016


Posted October 25, 2010 by neatnik2009 in February 18, Saints of 1300-1399, Saints of 1400-1499

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