The Beatific Vision by a Beatified Artist

Happy November!

November is an exciting month because it starts off with a very exciting feast day! And by that, I mean All Saints’ Day. That is the day that we celebrate all the saints — especially the ones that we would normally not recognize in an official feast day. After all, even though the Church has canonized a bunch of saints, we recognize that there are probably a lot more of them in Heaven than we know.

And so! To start off November, I figured I would feature a collection of pictures of Heaven and the saints in Heaven by someone who actually was officially beatified — Fra Angelico, who is known fondly in Italy as Beato Angelico because he was just that holy that he had quite a following, both in his life and after his life passed away from this Earth. So, not quite a saint, I suppose, but verrrrry close!

And let me tell you: this collection is pretty amazing.

This is the bottom part of an altarpiece, also known as a predella, which once resided in San Domenico, Fiesole, Italy, which was where Fra Angelico once lived in the adjoining convent as a Dominican friar. And so, he probably painted this as a service to the convent.

By the way! The top part of the altarpiece, also made by Fra Angelico, is still at San Domenico, just in case you want to go there for a pilgrimage! The original predella has been replaced by other paintings that were made sometime in the 16th century. The altarpiece looks like this:

Photograph of the Fiesole Altarpiece. Photograph from Wikimedia Commons.
Photograph of the Fiesole Altarpiece. Photograph from Wikimedia Commons.

Anyway! Back to the original predella, before it was replaced by one that is currently there! The original predella’s left side looked like this:

The Virgin Mary with the Apostles and Other Saints, by Fra Angelico
The Virgin Mary with the Apostles and Other Saints, by Fra Angelico, c. 15th century. National Gallery, London, United Kingdom.

Isn’t it marvelous?

And yes, you can spot a couple of saints too! At the very top is the Virgin Mary. Then there’s Saint Peter with the key and bible. You can also see Saint Dominic (always important, especially since this is a Dominican art!) as well as Saint Francis, whom St. Dominic had a special friendship with. Also, see that guy with the red hat? That is probably St. Jerome, who is famous for translating the Bible into the Latin Vulgate!

On the right side of the altar is this…

The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs, by Fra Angelico
The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs, by Fra Angelico, c. 15th century. National Gallery, London, United Kingdom.

Anyone who is holding a palm in their hands is a martyr! And, boy, are there a lot of martyrs! At the top row are a lot of Old Testament Folks, including Noah, holding his Ark, Moses, holding the scrolls, and David, holding his lyre. Then there is the last forerunner… Saint John the Baptist!

And, guess who is at the center of this lovely altarpiece?

Why, Jesus, of course! After all, why shouldn’t He be front and center? And yes… it is completely marvelous. Check it out:

Christ Glorified in the Court of Heaven, by Fra Angelico
Christ Glorified in the Court of Heaven, by Fra Angelico, c. 15th century. National Gallery, London, United Kingdom.

Here is Jesus, surrounded by His Heavenly court of Angels! Most are nameless or unrecognizable, but you can see Saint Michael standing nearby in blue armor, ready to do battle…. just in case.

(If you’re squinting at the above picture and thinking, “Have I seen this image before in one of Karina’s books???” then the answer is YES. This is the picture that accompanies the meditation of the Ascension in The Glorious Mysteries book that I made! Book information here, just in case you’re interested…)

And so! I hope you had a lovely November so far! Keep your mind on Heaven and remember that those who are in Heaven are our friends and want to help us get closer to Jesus.

And always, always, always pray for the souls of those who have passed away!

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of three, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer

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