San Marco, Florence
The Domincan Convent was begun in the early 1400s. The first "prior" (head man) was St. Antoninus of Florence. The famous painter known as Fra Angelico was one of the first of the Dominican Friars to live and work there. He later became the prior. The land for the convent was given to the friars by Cosimo Medici. The monks lived in small rooms called "cells". Cosimo had a cell built for himself, where he could stay sometimes. Between 1447 and 1452 Cosimo got his favourite architect, Michelozzo, to build a large new library and improve other parts of the building. In the late 1700s, the facade (front) of the building was rebuilt in a Classical style.
In 1490, the prior of St. Marks was a famous Domincan called Savonarola. He lived in the cell that had once belonged to Cosimo Medici. He was a great preacher. He disliked Cosimo's grandson, Lorenzo Medici, who was often called "Lorenzo the Magnificent" (Lorenzo il Magnifico). He thought that Lorenzo had too much power and was acting like a prince. He preached against Lorenzo, against the Pope and against the Roman Catholic Church. He told everyone that the end of the world was near. Many people became frightened or depressed by the things that he said. Pope Alexander VI had Savonarola arrested. He was tortured and put to death in 1498. 60 years later, the Church agreed that, in fact, he had said nothing wrong.
The Library of St. Mark's contains many illuminated manuscripts. Some were probably decorated by Fra Angelico's brother Benedetto. Some may even have been painted by Fra Angelico.
The Museum has a collection of paintings by Fra Angelico. On of the most famous is The Descent from the Cross, which shows the body of Jesus being taken down from the cross where he was crucified. The convent also contains many paintings by Fra Angelico. They are frescos, and decorated many walls, including a painting in each friar's cell.
The altarpiece painted by Fra Angelico