Tuesday, March 3, 2015


Cappella Nicolina

In the TOWER OF INNOCENT III of the Counts of Segni (1198/1216)

Rediscovered in 1721 when it was added the altarpiece “Stoning of St. Stephen” by Giorgio Vasari (1511/74)

Extremely important cycle of frescoes:

In the vault:

Pilasters at the side of the altar:

“St. Athanasius”, “St. Leo the Great”, “St. Gregory the Great” and “St. Chrysostom”

Pilasters at the side of the door:

“St. Thomas Aquinas”, “St. Ambrose”, “St. Augustine” and “St. Bonaventure”

On three walls:

“Stories of the protomartyrs Sts. Stephen and Lawrence” 1448/50 masterpiece by Fra' Giovanni da Fiesole aka Fra Angelico (about 1395/1455) for Nicholas V Parentucelli (1447/55) finished with the assistance of Benozzo di Lese aka Benozzo Gozzoli (1420/97 )

The six scenes from the life of St. Stephen are in the lunettes at the top:

“St. Stephen led to torture”
“Stoning of St. Stephen”

The five scenes from the life of St. Lawrence are in rectangular panels at the bottom:

The Dominican monk Giovanni da Fiesole aka Fra Angelico is known as Beato Angelico (Blessed Angelic) in Italian and he was actually proclaimed blessed only by Pope John Paul II in 1984. However he was described as “Beato” soon after his death both for the emotional devoutness of his paintings, and for his human qualities

In his work he conjugated aspects of medieval art such as the importance of education in art or the mystical use of light with new Renaissance instances such as the careful use of perspective or the emphasis on human figures

His influence will be felt by his collaborator Benozzo Gozzoli and by Filippo Lippi. With his use of light he paved the way for the great masters Piero Della Francesca and Melozzo da Forlì

“Influenced by the Roman environment and of course also from the direct vision of the ancient monuments, Fra Angelico's style acquired a brand new appearance dignified, majestic and classic. The simple Florentine narration leaves the field to noble rhetorical oratory, the figures become firmer and monumental, reconnecting to the solemn Masaccio's Tribute; natural landscape is replaced by grandiose architectural plants, rich in classical allusions. Behind the mask of the vicissitudes of life and martyrdom of the saints is in fact the celebration of this papacy, self-proclaimed heir to the greatness of Ancient Rome” (Carlo Bertelli, Giuliano Briganti, Antonio Giuliano)

“The humanist pope would not have called Fra Angelico if he had not recognized him as the great exponent of religious humanism. Angelico wants to show that a fact is historical when it contains a deep conceptual meaning. St. Lawrence giving Church property to the poor is a historical fact that, as an exhortation to charity, may also have a moral significance, but it also has a conceptual meaning because material goods given are the grace that the Church distributes in the whole mystical body of the Christian community. The Church is represented by the deep perspective aisle and the community of the faithful or the mystical body of the poor, decent as ancient characters” (Giulio Carlo Argan)
“In the use of light, however, Fra Angelico's technique is at its finest: pervading the entire surface of the painting light manages to instill a deep sense of unity to the scenes. The bright light mystically understood ends up being almost emanation of the divine and manages to optimize colors that shine also for the use of gold” (Andrea Pomella)

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