The Crucifixion Scenes at San Marco

It is Fra Angelico’s feast day! Huzzah!

I’ve talked about Fra Angelico before… basically, he is one of the most amazing religious painters that has ever lived. Vasari, who did a whole history about pretty much all the major artists up to Michaelangelo, of whom he was a contempary, even said, ” It is impossible to bestow too much praise on this holy father, who was so humble and modest in all that he did and said and whose pictures were painted with such facility and piety.”

Did I also mention that Fra Angelico used to paint the Crucifixion in tears? Because he totally did.

Anyway, I found this beautiful artwork of Fra Angelico in the middle of working on one of these images of the Crucifixion, and I just had to share:

Fra Angelico Visited By Angels, by Paul-Hippolyte Flandrin
Fra Angelico Visited By Angels, by Paul-Hippolyte Flandrin, c. 1894. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen, Rouen, France.

It is a picture of Fra Angelico being visited by angels, who are watching him as he weeps while painting the Crucifixion. And who can blame him? Honestly, it brings to mind a quote by Saint Augustine, in which Saint Augustine said, “A single tear shed at the remembrance of the Passion of Jesus is worth more than a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, or a year of fasting on bread and water.”

Where is Fra Angelico painting these paintings of the Crucifixion… and why? Simple. Fra Angelico used to be a Dominican monk who lived in a the convent of San Marco, located in Florence, Italy. He was already a trained artist when he entered into the monastery, and the brothers quickly put him to work! He painted the walls of the monasteries with his frescoes.

His more elaborate pictures often were in the common areas, such as this one, which was is on the opposite wall to the chapter house.

Crucifixion and Saints, by Fra Angelico, c. 1441-42. Convento di San Marco, Florence, Italy.
Crucifixion and Saints, by Fra Angelico, c. 1441-42. Convento di San Marco, Florence, Italy.

However he also painted simpler pictures of the Crucifixion, often in the cells of his brothers and fellow Dominicans. And so, for today I would like to highlight his pictures of the Crucifixion that he made for his fellow brothers in for their own personal cells.

  • Crucifixion with Saint Dominic, by Fra Angelico, c. 15th century. Convento di San Marco (cell 17), Florence, Italy.
  • Crucifixion with Saint Dominic in Mortification, by Fra Angelico, c. 15th century. Convento di San Marco (cell 20), Florence, Italy.
  • Crucifixion with Virgin Mary, by Fra Angelico, c. 15th century. Convento di San Marco (cell 22), Florence, Italy.
  • Crucifixion with Saints, by Fra Angelico, c. 15th century. Convento di San Marco (cell 25), Florence, Italy.
  • Nailing to the Cross, by Fra Angelico, c. 15th century. Convento di San Marco (cell 36), Florence, Italy.
  • Crucifixion with Saints, by Fra Angelico, c. 15th century. Convento di San Marco (cell 37), Florence, Italy.
  • Crucifixion with Saints, by Fra Angelico, c. 15th century. Convento di San Marco (cell 38), Florence, Italy.

The convent is no longer used as a convent. In fact, today it’s a museum. However, many people have gone there for as a pilgrimage to see these stunning paintings by Fra Angelico, one of the few painters who is not only a stunning artist but also beatified as well. There, his work continues to inspire those that visit — either in person or afar! — today.

May Fra Angelico pray for us!

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of four, 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.

4 thoughts on “The Crucifixion Scenes at San Marco

  • February 19, 2020 at 3:22 am
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    Thank you, Karina, I love that painting of Fra Angelico; I hadn’t seen it before! As usual, your blog really strikes a chord with me. I have always loved Fra Angelico, also, and I had seen that his feast day was coming up. I already have a few books about him, but I had just spent some time yesterday and today searching for some books that focus just on his paintings in San Marco. (I knew about his paintings there when we visited Florence 2 years ago, but the museum was closed on the day we were there.) So it was so timely to read your blog today. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  • March 15, 2020 at 4:58 am
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    I love the painting of him painting. I had the opportunity to go to San Marco while in Italy in the fall. It is incredible- and as an artist myself, Fra Angelico is one of my Patton Saints. The work in the cells is so uplifting & beautiful. I want to go back again some day.

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    • March 15, 2020 at 5:04 am
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      It is so beautiful! One day, I hope I go as well. And I hope you can make it there again! It’ll be even better the second time, I’m sure. 🙂

      Reply

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