San Marco Museum
San Marco Museum is attached to the Church of San Marco. It is a short walk away from the Duomo and around the corner from the Accademia Gallery.
San Marco Museum is a place to visit if you love the work of Renaissance artist Fra Angelico. And if you don’t know who Fra Angelico is, then this is a terrific place to discover his work. The great painter Fra Angelico lived here during the 15th century.
San Marco Museum is actually an old Dominican monastery. Cosimo the Old of the Medici family funded the renovation. It has been very well maintained and is a beautiful place to walk around.
Inside San Marco Museum there are many monk's cells. There is also the cell that was used by Cosimo de Medici for his personal spiritual retreat. Each cell has a fresco adorned on the wall created by Fra Angelico. I found it interesting to walk into the small cell and imagine what it must have been like for the monk to call it home.
You will also get a chance to see the cell of the most infamous resident monk, Girolamo Savonarola. It has his desk, his robe and the goat hair belt. You can learn fascinating facts about him and his short spiritual rule over Florence in the 15th century. He was the Dominican Friar who got into politics. Girolamo Savonarola went crazy with power. He demanded books and artwork thrown into the bonfire he thought was immoral. It is said that he threw a painting by Sandro Botticelli on the bonfire. This is the origin of the concept Bonfire of the Vanities. Overtime the people got tired of him and his actions so they burned him at the stake in the middle of Piazza della Signoria.
The highlight for me was at the top of the stairs leading to the monk’s quarters. There you will find Fra Angelico's large fresco The Annunciation. It is full of serenity and joy. The patterned gold-leaf wings on the Angel Gabriel amazed me. This is probably his most famous work and it is spectacular to see in person.
There is also works by Ghirlandaio, Ghiberti and Sogliani. They were all absolutely amazing and very interesting to see.
The library room exhibit provides medieval and Renaissance calligraphy and illumination. The manuscripts are beautiful and well displayed.
San Marco Museum is not one of the major tourist spots. It wasn’t crowded and the quiet atmosphere was very serene and it adds to the beauty of the collection. I really enjoyed it.