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by Ed Hahn
Hong Kong, China
August 26, 2005
This museum which was opened in 1869 was consecrated as a monastery in 1443, some 560 years ago. The building itself is interesting in that it’s a well preserved example of a 15th century monastery. The works of Fra' Angelico, who lived here from 1438 to 1445, are everywhere – the alms-house, the refectory, the cloister and in dozens of monks cells. I think I recognize some of the cell paintings which served the monks as meditative inspiration – "The Flight to Egypt," "Noli me Tangere" and the "Annunciation." I definitely recognize his rendering of "The Crucifixion" on a wall in the Chapter House.
Girolamo Savonarola was a different story. A zealous reformer, he railed against the sinfulness and apostasy of the time from the pulpit of San Marco. This put him in opposition to the humanist revival of the 15th century and, in the political chaos of the time, he was able to establish the republic of Florence as a Christian commonwealth, of which God was the sole sovereign, and the Gospel the law. When people burned their ornaments and books the huge fires were called "bonfires of the vanities." His zealousness got him in trouble with Rome and after much upheaval; he was hanged and burned in 1498. There is a riveting collection of Savonarola's artifacts in his rooms including his hairshirt, his bible, which is so tiny I can't even see the words, and other relics. Religious intolerance in times of change is almost an historical imperative and is not limited to Islam.
I visit the Library which features an incredible display of illuminated manuscripts produced here. The Library itself is an outstanding example of renaissance architecture. Don’t miss it. There are also additional collections of artifacts elsewhere in the complex but I didn’t find them very interesting except for the huge bell on the north side of the Cloister courtyard.
Unfortunately, I hadn't brought my camera because they are banned at Accademia so I have no photos.
The museum has strange hours which may account for some of its lack of popularity. It’s closed on some Mondays and some Sundays and open only from 8:15am to 1:50pm, except on weekends, when it’s open until 6:50pm. The entry fee is very reasonable at 4 euros. No need to make reservations.
From journal Fabulous, Fantastic Florence
New York, New York
July 11, 2001
Each monk's cell was frugally and identically furnished and each contained a serious inspirational painting, by Fra Angelico. Only one room was larger and more completely furnished, a duplex, actually, that the Medici men used whenever they wanted to retreat to the monastery to take a break from war, wealthy women, and political intrigue.
From journal Florence and a bit of Tuscany
Northern Va Suburbs of DC, Virginia
October 25, 2000
It was very interesting.
From journal Art in Florence