The Cappella Carafa, in the Dominican church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, is notable for its frescoes by the Florentine artist Flipppino Lippi (1457-1504).
The frescoes (1488-93), Lippi's only work in Rome, were commissioned by Cardinal Oliviero Carafa.
The altarpiece depicts the Annunciation, in which Gabriel and Mary are joined by Cardinal Carafa and St Thomas Aquinas. On the shelf behind the curtain there is a carafe (a symbol of purity) and an olive tree branch (symbol of peace), visual references to the cardinal's name.
The fresco on the back wall is the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, while on the right we see the Triumph of St Thomas Aquinas. The lunette above depicts the Vision of St Thomas at the Crucifix.
The vault is decorated with frescoes of four Sibyls. The Sibyls, who were symbols of wisdom and knowledge, are portrayed holding scrolls, on which are written quotations from St. Thomas.
The fresco on the left wall, the Triumph of Virtue, was destroyed to make way for the funerary monument to Pope Paul IV (Giovanni Pietro Carafa, r. 1555-59). The monument was designed by Pirro Ligorio (c. 1513-83); the statue of the pope was carved by Giacomo Cassignola.
On July 12th 1555, Pope Paul IV issued one of the most infamous bulls in Church history: Cum Nimis Absurdum, which led to the creation of a Jewish ghetto in Rome.
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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