“The Dominican Blessed”, left and right piers of the “ San Domenico Altarpiece” Fiesole, 1423-4, Fra Angelico, now at the National Gallery, London.
These panels were originally placed the bottom corners of the entire framed altarpiece, that is at either end of the predella. What these two panels show are certain members of the Dominican Family, all of whom were revered as being numbered among the Blessed in heaven by the new Dominican Community in Fiesole (founded in 1406). These are real Dominicans and Fra Angelico has added the names of most of them. Although quite small (c. 32X22cm), and at the base of the altarpiece, these two panels in black, white and gold, must have been eye-catching. Friars fill the upper rows. All of them are tonsured and most have an attribute indicating what they did in the Order. You can see that some of them were bishops and that was a cardinal. On the bottom row, all the figures are kneeling. These are other members of the Dominican family. On the left panel, there is a lay brother with his distinctive black scapular and four nuns, who are dressed like the friars but wear a black veil rather than the friars’ capuce. On the right, are six lay Dominicans. The four women wear white veils. Only them has an attribute. It might be the rule by which they lived. All of them kneel suggesting the significance of their prayers. Their position at the very bottom of the entire altarpiece suggests to me that their prayers were understood to be the foundation of the mission of the whole Order. We celebrate Dominican All Saints on Monday and All Souls’ on Tuesday. And, of course, in these days as in the 1420’s, we pray for them and they for us, which is always God’s unfailing gift to us, as we live out our lives as Dominicans now.
The Catholic Chaplaincy serves the students and staff of the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University and Queen Margaret University.
The Catholic Chaplaincy is also a parish of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh (the Parish of St Albert the Great) and all Catholic students and staff are automatically members of this parish.