The Holy “Graffiti”
Today the Order of Preachers celebrates the feast of Blessed John of Fiesole, also known as Fra Angelico, a recognised renaissance genius.
His paintings lead him to be considered a true preacher in the arts, and a clear follower of that via pulchritudinis in which beauty is the channel between God and men. To be born in the XV century in Italy granted a profitable relationship with art and physical beauty, and indeed that was the case of Blessed Angelico, but also this epoch is the scene in which the flames of reformation and the strict observance movement took place, thus carrying a “renewed” understanding of the necessary tools for exercise a true religious life. Fra Angelico was one of those “observant” friars that in his time understood that his own life needed a serious reform and in order to transmit that belief, he didn’t spare even the integrity of his own priory’s walls.
The city of the Sun is the most famous work of Brother Tomasso Campanella, a Italian Dominican friar, friend of Galileo and one of the major exponents of renaissance humanism. This book, considered one of the first examples of utopian socialist literature, depicts the perfect order of a society incarnate in an ideal city in which every citizen is able to reach the final end of his existence through a perfect balance between community life, personal commitment to the end of society and personal relation with God. Among the many fantastic features that the city has, the painted walls are, in my opinion, the most interesting. Every wall of the city is painted with beautiful images in order to teach the people who pass by. Imagine that tomorrow morning the city of Oxford appears covering with images of mathematical theories or physical diagramas etc. (probably that would fulfil the historical role of this city of being the nourishing mother of human spirits). Clearly it was Campanella’s idea to foresee the perfect instalment of the kingdom of God, the celestial city, image of the perfected humanity, in which God will be the eternal guest, in the prodigious achievements of a well-ordered society. And everybody knows that this society needs, above all, education.