The beautiful frescoes in the Carafa Chapel, in the Dominican church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, were painted by the Florentine artist Filippino Lippi (1457-1504) between 1488 and 1493.
On the right wall is The Triumph of St Thomas Aquinas, in which Doctor Angelicus (as he is known) is seated in judgement over two defeated intellectual adversaries, identified as the heretics Arius and Sabellius. The former denied the divinity of Christ and the latter the three persons in the Trinity. St Thomas holds a book, open to reveal the words: SAPIENTIAM SAPIENTVM PERDAM (I will destroy the wisdom of the wise), and in front of him is a prone figure representing the Devil, with a scroll declaring SAPIENTIA VINCIT MALITIAM (Wisdom conquers malice). The four female figures seated with him are allegories of Grammar, Rhetoric, Dialectic and Philosophy, which were the four secular subjects of study in medieval universities. The saint, himself, represents Theology.
The two youths who form a prominent part of the small crowd of spectators (bottom right) are thought to be Giovanni de' Medici and his illegitimate cousin Giulio, the future popes Leo X (r. 1513-21) and Clement VII (r. 1523-34). Both are interred within metres of the chapel; their funerary monuments stand on opposite sides of the sanctuary.
The statue of Pope Leo X is by Raffaello da Montelupo, while that of Pope Clement VII is by Nanni di Baccio Bigio. The statues of prophets and the bas-reliefs are the work of Baccio Bandinelli. All three sculptors hailed from Tuscany.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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