FRA ANGELICO AT SAN MARCO
Art and the Liturgy of Cloistered Life
THE APPEAL of all forms of monastic life down the ages is best summed up in its character as a life of prayer. In this chapter, William Hood analyzes the role of images in forming monastic prayerfulness, through a study of Fra Angelico's cycle of frescoes at the Observant Dominican convent of San Marco, Florence. Hood reconstructs the functions of key images in the "ritual topography" of the monastic enclosure, and reflects upon their intended messages for distinct social groups in the monastic community: the preaching friars, the novices still in formation, and the lay brothers whose work was restricted to the cloister. His picture of Dominican "habits of prayer" illustrates how the basic ideals of monastic spirituality were transmitted from one generation of friars to the next, and suggests how images were used programatically to shape the religious imagination of those "professionals" whose task it was to preach to the laity.
WILLIAM HOOD is associate professor of art history at Oberlin College. Among his publications is an essay on Renaissance art and popular religion in Monasticism and the Arts, the companion volume to Christianity and the Renaissance. He is currently finishing a book on Fra Angelico at San Marco.