Museo di San Marco

Museo di San Marco information

Location
Florence , Italy
Address
Piazza San Marco 3
Telephone
+390 55 238 86 08
Prices
adult/reduced €4/2
Opening hours
8.15am-1.50pm Mon-Fri, 8.15am-4.50pm Sat & Sun, closed 1st, 3rd & 5th Sun & 2nd & 4th Mon of month
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At the heart of Florence's university area sits Chiesa di San Marco and adjoining 15th-century Dominican monastery where both gifted painter Fra' Angelico (c 1395–1455) and the sharp-tongued Savonarola piously served God. Today the monastery, aka one of Florence's most spiritually uplifting Museo museums, showcases the work of Fra' Angelico. After centuries of being known as 'Il Beato Angelico' (literally 'The Blessed Angelic One') or simply 'Il Beato' (The Blessed), the Renaissance's most blessed religious painter was made a saint by Pope John Paul II in 1984.

Enter via Michelozzo's Cloister of Saint Antoninus (1440). Turn immediately right to enter the Sala dell'Ospizio (Pilgrims' Hospital) where Fra' Angelico's attention to perspective and the realistic portrayal of nature comes to life in a number of major paintings, including the Deposition of Christ (1432).

Giovanni Antonio Sogliani's fresco The Miraculous Supper of St Domenic (1536) dominates the former monks' refectory in the cloister; and Fra' Angelico's huge Crucifixion and Saints fresco (1441–42) decorates the former chapterhouse. But it is the 44 monastic cells on the 1st floor that are the most haunting: at the top of the stairs, Fra' Angelico's most famous work, Annunciation (c 1440), commands all eyes.

A stroll around each of the cells reveals snippets of many more religious reliefs by the Tuscan-born friar, who decorated the cells between 1440 and 1441 with deeply devotional frescoes to guide the meditation of his fellow friars. Most were executed by Fra' Angelico himself, others by aides under his supervision, including Benozzo Gozzoli. Among several masterpieces is the magnificent Adoration of the Magi in the cell used by Cosimo the Elder as a meditation retreat (Nos 38 to 39). Quite a few of the frescoes are gruesome: the cell of San Antonino Arcivescovo features Jesus pushing open the door of his sepulchre, squashing a nasty-looking devil in the process.

Contrasting with the pure beauty of these frescoes are the plain rooms that Savonarola called home from 1489. Rising to the position of prior at the Dominican convent, it was from here that the fanatical monk railed against luxury, greed and corruption of the clergy. Kept as a kind of shrine to the turbulent priest, they house a portrait, a few personal items, the linen banner Savonarola carried in processions and a grand marble monument erected by admirers in 1873.