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The Miracles of Prato: A Novel

The Miracles of Prato: A Novel

4.4 9
by Laurie Albanese

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“Like Fra Filippo’s paintings, this love story, set in one of the most intriguing historical periods, is suffused with clear, warm color and fine attention to detail.”
 —Debra Dean, author of The Madonnas of Leningrad


A vibrant and enthralling historical novel about art and passion, The


“Like Fra Filippo’s paintings, this love story, set in one of the most intriguing historical periods, is suffused with clear, warm color and fine attention to detail.”
 —Debra Dean, author of The Madonnas of Leningrad


A vibrant and enthralling historical novel about art and passion, The Miracles of Prato by Laurie Albanese and Laura Morowitz brings Italy in the era of the Medici to glorious life—as it tells the story of an illicit love affair between the renowned painter Fra Filippo Lippi and his muse, a beautiful convent novitiate. A magnificent blend of fact, historical color, emotion, and invention, The Miracles of Prato is a novel that will delight the many fans of Tracy Chavalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring and Susan Vreeland’s Girl in Hyacinth Blue.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

A formulaic foray into the world of Renaissance Italy, this novel based on the life of painter Fra Filippo Lippi will be lapped up by fans of historical romance. In the year 1457, Lippi, a Carmelite monk in Prato, spots the lovely Lucrezia Buti and wants to use her as a model for his paintings and frescoes. Lucrezia's visits to the painter's bottega are misinterpreted by the convent's corrupt and powerful prior general, with irreparable consequences for the girl. But Lippi and Lucrezia fall in love, and through a series of intrigues involving the disappearance of a relic revered as miraculous by the people of Prato, the painter and his lover are vindicated and can live happily ever after-at least until the hasty last chapter. Albanese (Blue Suburbia) and art historian Morowitz have taken a historical rumor and fashioned it into a saccharine, tidy and satisfying romance. (Feb.)

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Kirkus Reviews
In Renaissance Italy, a painter who happens to be a monk models his frescos of the Blessed Virgin on a stunning maiden who happens to be a nun, in this dually written debut. Fra (Brother) Filippo Lippi, of Prato, Tuscany, owes frescos and altarpieces to two churches, a merchant, a king and a very curmudgeonly guild of bankers. His reputation for down-to-earth representations of Mary and the saints has garnered him many commissions, but his weakness for wine, women and procrastination leaves him perpetually short of time and money. Fortunately, his patrons, the Medicis, have secured him a post as chaplain of the Convent of Santa Margherita, where two young siblings, Lucrezia and Spinetta, newly impoverished daughters of a recently deceased and posthumously disgraced Florentine silk merchant, have lately been enrolled as novices. Filippo is bedazzled when he meets Lucrezia in the garden of her elderly mentor, Sister Pureza. After a slow setup involving minute examination of Filippo's craft and much diffidence about Lucrezia and Filippo's growing attachment as she poses as his Madonna, the action finally accelerates. Lecherous prelate Prior Saviano catches Lucrezia alone in Filippo's studio and rapes her. Filippo refuses to let Lucrezia return to the convent, which is under Saviano's control. The two enter into informal matrimony with the blessing of a priest friend. Lucrezia's pregnancy causes a scandal. The irate bankers vandalize Filippo's studio and his chaotic domestic arrangements impede his creativity. After Lucrezia gives birth, her son is spirited away on Saviano's orders. Sadly, the most riveting portion of the book, the hunt for the missing infant, occupies too few pages. In aforegone conclusion, the sacred Belt of the Blessed Virgin (an actual relic still housed in Prato) proves to be the salvation of the good and the ruination, or at least containment, of the bad. Despite the convincing historical backdrop, the one-dimensional characters, whether invented or real, can't sustain interest over long stretches of exposition. Agent: Marly Rusoff/Marly Rusoff & Associates

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author

Laurie Albanese is the author of the novel Lynelle by the Sea and the memoir Blue Suburbia, which was named a Book Sense Best Book of the Year and was an Entertainment Weekly Editor's Choice selection.

Laura Morowitz is a professor of art history and coauthor of Consuming the Past: The Medieval Revival in Fin-de-Siècle France. They both live in New Jersey with their families.

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The Miracles of Prato 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
ExecJean More than 1 year ago
This story was different. I found it read-able, engaging and worth the time to read. The story is well formed, the characters well developed, and the imagery is well stated.
YoYoBird More than 1 year ago
Interesting story, though could have been more strongly written. Enjoyed details of period life. Did want to make me go see the artist's work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Touching, also informative, romantic but not cliche
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1457 in Prato, Italy, artist Carmelite Order Monk Fra Filippo Lippi, commissioned to paint a picture for the convent chapel of Santa Margherita, sees the beautiful novitiate Lucrezia Buti and decides immediately he needs to paint her. He asks her to become his model for his paintings and frescoes. Excited she agrees.

However, her visits to his studio are unacceptable behavior for an unaccompanied woman although both act with proper deportment. Still her spending time alone with Lippi, a known womanizer, is a breach of faith. As the artist and his subject fall in love, she poses for his masterpiece The Holy Mother at a time when the sacred Sacra Cinola belt of the Madonna vanishes. Some in the city blame Lucrezia and want her punished even as she proclaims she remains chaste; others believe her sincerity that she remains a virgin.

Using historical references, Laurie Albanese and Laura Morowitz provide an intriguing biographical fiction tale of the renowned artist-monk and his most inspirational model with a deep look at the fifteenth century Italian culture that threatened to destroy them. Although in some ways the well written story line appears to be a bittersweet romance, the insight into the limitations of a poor monk vs. that of a Pope or other Medici make for an engaging tale with some intrigue as authors¿ note points out their son Filippo Lippi lived with and was trained by his father Fra Lippi and was as renowned if not more so than his father. This is an engaging look at a forbidden love whose work for the Santa Margherita nuns is on display in Florence and highlighted by Robert Browning in his Victorian poem Fra Filippo Lippi.

Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
grapes More than 1 year ago
Fra Filippo, a Carmelite monk, and Lucrezia, a novititate, are two of the most unforgettable characters in "The Miracles of Prato" by Laurie Albanese and Laura Morowitz. This is Historical Fiction at it's best. The story takes place during the Fifteenth Century. During this time Fra Filippo Lippi is a monk as well as a very talented artist. One of his famous patrons is Cosimo De Medici. Lucrezia, a novititate, from the Santa Margherita convent becomes the woman who will pose as The Holy Mother for one of his paintings.

While he paints Lucrezia, Fra Lippi falls in love with this beautiful woman. Sadly, in Prato it is well known that Fra Lippi is weak when it comes to fleshly desires. Amazingly, he does not succumb to the beauty of Lucrezia. He respects her as he would the Virgin Mary. Nothing unsavory happens between he and Lucrezia during their time together in the monk's bottega.

Although these two people hold themselves above reproach, scandal takes over their lives. The monk and novititate meet all sorts of obstacles. I cried while reading the novel. I thought about the power held by men in high religious establishments. I pondered the fact that beauty can become a curse rather than a blessing to women. I wondered about marriage vows. Is there more than one way for a couple to become legally married? The novel constantly awakened thoughts and made me question age old philosophies.

"The Miracles of Prato" is also suspenseful. Fra Lippi sees a flash of red walking quickly past him more than once as he travels about the city. Who is it? There is a missing child. Where is the baby? Who took the child? Then, there is the Sacra Cinola, the belt of the Madonna. It is a Holy relic. If it does not remain in the right hands, what will happen? Is their a curse attached to the Sacra Cinola? Do miracles flow from the green and gold belt belonging to the Virgin Mary? Saint Thomas was the one who gave the Sacra Cinola to the Holy Mother.

Teresa de' Valenti is one of the people who believes she has witnessed a miracle from The Gift of Heaven. With the miraculous birth of her son, Ascanio, Teresa de' Valenti chooses to always believe in the truth and virtue of Lucrezia. More than once, she will show her appreciation to Lucrezia.

Laura Albanese and Laura Morowitz have written an extraordinary novel.It is a portrait of long lasting love. I anxiously await their next book.