On February 18th 1455, the famed Florentine artist and Dominican monk Fra Angelico died in Rome. He was buried in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.
Fra Angelico, whom Vasari hailed as having 'a rare and perfect talent', had been called to the Eternal City by Pope Nicholas V (r. 1447-55) to fresco his private chapel, the Cappella Niccolina, in the Vatican.
The Pope, who died little more than a month later, composed the charming epitaph:
NON MIHI SIT LAVDI, QVOD ERAM VELVT ALTER APELLES,
SED QUVD LVCRA TVIS OMNIA, CHRISTE, DABAM;
ALTERA NAM TERRIS OPERA EXTANT, ALTERA CAELO.
VRBS ME JOANNEM FLOS TVLIT ETRVRIAE.
(Let not the praise be mine that I was like another Apelles,
But rather that I gave all my gain to your people, O Christ;
For some works are manifest on earth, others in heaven.
The city which is the flower of Tuscany bore me, Giovanni.)
The epitaph was removed in 1997 when the effigy, which has been ascribed to the sculptor Isaia da Pisa (c. 1410-64), was raised onto the present plinth. It can now be found in the adjacent chapel.
Pope John Paul II (r. 1978-2005) beatified Fra Angelico on October 3rd 1982, and declared him to be the patron of artists.
Santa Maria sopra Minerva is also the final resting-place of St Catherine of Siena (1347-80), as well as a quintet of popes (Leo X, Clement VIII, Paul IV, Urban VII & Benedict XIII), more than any other church apart from St Peter's Basilica.
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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