San Marco

San Marco (32)

The convent is located on the Piazza San Marco, a bustling, lively place that is popular with the city's university students. 

Initially, the convent was owned by the Vallumbrosan and Sylvestrine monks until it fell into the hands of the Dominicans in 1436. The following year, Cosimo de Medici asked Michelozzo rebuilt it, as at the time it was in very poor condition. 

This beautiful convent is well worth a visit as its tranquillity contrasts perfectly with the bustle of the square outside. 

The reason this convent is famous is because the interior houses an extensive series of frescoes made by one of the most important painters of the Quattrocento: Guido di Pietro, better known as Fra Angelico, who, in addition to being a painter, was one of the priors of the order and lived here for many years.

Of all the rooms, one of the most fascinating is the Ospizio dei Pellegrini, where food and shelter was provided to the pilgrims. Visitors here will find the altarpiece of the "Last Judgement", one of the most interesting and colourful painted by the artist, in which the righteous are grouped next to the Celestial City as the damned are gutted in hell. The other important piece in this room is the "Madonna dei Linaiuoli”, commissioned in 1443 by the linen weavers' union. 

Following this, visit the Sala Capitolare, where the splendid "The Crucifixion", is on display, a breath-taking depiction of the death of Christ in which His pale skin contrasts with the red colour of the sky. Legend has it that Vasari swore that Fra Angelico cried every time he worked on this piece.

Meanwhile, on the first floor you will find the bedroom, one of the focal points of this small museum, as here visitors can contemplate the magnificent "Annunciation" considered one of the most beautiful of all Renaissance paintings. Here the great mastery of perspective that the artist possessed can be fully appreciated.

The remainder of the first floor is occupied by 44 cells, all of them decorated with frescoes of religious scenes by Fra Angelico and his disciples as a means of aiding meditation. One of these now houses the sackcloth of Savonarola, one of the convent's famous priors. 

Finally, on this floor you will also find the library designed in 1441 by Michelozzo on commission by Cosimo the Elder. It would later become Europe's first public library.

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