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Cover for The Miracles of Prato

The Miracles of Prato

A Novel

Laurie Albanese, Laura Morowitz


List Price: 14.99*
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Summer '10 Reading Group List

“This fascinating novel follows the creation of a series of Italian frescoes while telling a fast-paced story about a real-life Renaissance painter-monk and the nun he seduced. Book groups will find plenty to discuss as The Miracles of Prato looks at the role of women, painting, patronage, and the church in 15th-century Tuscany in a way that makes them accessible, intriguing, and engrossing. I felt like I'd been been to Italy and seen Fra Lippi's masterpiece in Prato for myself!”
— Cindy DeTommoso, Clinton Book Shop, Clinton, NJ
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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 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.

Praise For The Miracles of Prato: A Novel

“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

“This novel based on the life of Fra Filippo Lippi will be lapped up by fans of historical romance.”
— Publishers Weekly on MIRACLES OF PRATO

“The Miracles of Prato is a time machine, taking the reader back to the height of the Italian Renaissance, revealing a world of childlike innocence and illicit passion, harsh injustice and saintly miracles, and wafting around it all like rare perfume, the creation of art for the glory of God.”
— Eleanor Herman, author of Mistress of the Vatican, on MIRACLES OF PRATO

“A richly detailed and thoroughly engrossing story told with equal measures of ardor, tenderness, and compassion, THE MIRACLES OF PRATO offers a poignant portrayal of the heartbreak of two people caught in the Church’s grip during the Italian Renaissance.”
— Judith Lindbergh, author of The Thrall’s Tale, on MIRACLES OF PRATO

“Richly textured Renaissance romance. …[T]he authors have fashioned an irresistibly passionate novel steeped in art, history, and the miracles wrought by love.”

William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780061558351, 400pp.

Publication Date: February 2, 2010

About 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.

Conversation Starters from

  1. What are the many "miracles of Prato" and why do you think the authors chose this title? 
  2. How is your experience of the novel enhanced (or diminished) by looking at the website [] documenting the restoration of Fra Lippi's Prato frescoes? 
  3. A woman's life in medieval and Renaissance Italy was largely limited to one of three roles: wife, nun, or prostitute. How is this reflected in the novel's female characters? Do you think Lucrezia successfully transcends these social limitations? Why or why not? 
  4. Why do you think Lucrezia ultimately decides to go with Fra Filippo and to allow their relationship to become sexual? Do you think the decision was wise? Moral? Inevitable? 
  5. The church was arguably the most powerful institution in Renaissance Italy. Discuss the importance of the church, both positive and negative, in relation to Fra Filippo's life and development as a man and as an artist. 
  6. Fra Filippo tells Lucrezia, "to paint is to pray." How do Fra Filippo, Lucrezia and Sister Pureza perceive and understand God differently? How does each express their faith? 
  7. Many important scenes unfold in the herb garden in the Convent Margherita. Discuss the meaning and symbolism of this setting. Consider Sister Pureza's wisdom in relation to her role as midwife and herb garden caretaker. 
  8. Is the convent a sanctuary, or a prison? For whom? Why? 
  9. What were the most vivid and convincing aspects of Fifteenth Century Italian life in the novel? What details in particular made this world come alive for you? 
  10. The novel may be seen as a meditation on beauty. What is the relationship in the book between external beauty and spiritual beauty? Between physical beauty and the creation of art? Between beauty, purity, and godliness? Do you agree with these associations as they are made in the novel? Can you explain how this relationship between beauty and faith might be appropriate to social and cultural realities in 15th Century Italy, and yet inappropriate by 21st Century cultural standards? 
  11. What did you learn about the daily life of an artist that surprised you? How might your approach to the study and appreciation of Renaissance art be changed after reading The Miracles of Prato
  12. The Holy Belt of the Virgin Mary is an important symbol in the novel, both as one of faith, and one of female power. What role does the belt play in the successful return of Lucrezia's baby? Do you believe this is a miracle, a human manipulation, or both? 
  13. The color red appears in many guises and in relation to many objects in the novel. Which objects can you think of and what is the symbolism behind them? 
  14. The Miracles of Prato is a collaboration between a novelist and an art historian. Can you see how this partnership benefited the story? 
  15. The novel is based on true events, but the authors take many liberties with the fragmented facts that history passed on to us. This is often an area of contention between historians and novelists. Do you have a bias toward or against fiction that liberally imagines the internal thoughts and private motives of public figures?