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San Marco

Blessed Beauty

San Marco

On the north edge of the Renaissance city, on the edge of the long-gone Medici gardens, the Dominican Convent of San Marco was Cosimo il Vecchio’s favourite pious project; he became close friends with the prior Antonino Pierozzi (who was canonized in 1523) and in 1437 he commissioned Michelozzo to rebuild it, and the convent and cloister, and to add a library for all the religious books and manuscripts he donated to the monks (he kept the classics for himself).

The Medici library was confiscated by the Signoria in 1494 and brought here, and it became, briefly, Europe’s first lending library; the fines for neglectful borrowers were hundreds of florins. Pope Leo X, however, used Vatican funds to buy the library back for the Medici, and it’s now in the Biblioteca Laurenziana.

Fra Angelico

San Marco is best known for the works of the other-worldly Fra Angelico (c. 1400–55). His spiritual qualities were endorsed in 1982 when he was beatified by John Paul II; in 1984 the Pope declared him the patron of artists, taking over St Luke’s old job.

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Churches, Cloisters and Convents

All About the Medici

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Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

Images by Carulmare, Creative Commons License, Sailko, GNU Creative Commons License, Sailko, GNU Free Documentation License