The Carafa Chapel is a chapel in the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
, known for a series of frescoes by Filippino Lippi. The chapel, located in the right side of the basilica and dedicated to St. Mary and St. Thomas of Aquino, was built in the late 15th century by will of Cardinal Oliviero Carafa. He was a member of the Dominicans, who at the time administrated the church, and his palace was located nearby.
The decoration began from the vault, which was divided into four angular sectors in which Filippino depicted four Sibyls. In the middle is the coat of arms of the Carafa family inside a medallion. The frame of the scenes include a pattern of branches twisting in rings and diamonds (this a symbol of Lorenzo de' Medici, intermingled with books and palms. The allusion of the Medici family is generally considered as a thanksgiving for Lorenzo's intercession towards Carafa in favour of the painter, and for his pacification work during the Baron's conjure which had torn apart Carafa's homeland, the Kingdom of Naples
, in 1485. The books refer to the Cardinal's intellectual interests.
In the Sibyls, Filippi was the first Florentine painter to adopt the sotto in su ("from below") perspective. In this he was likely inspired by the Ascension of Mary fresco by Melozzo da Forlì, then in the Santi Apostoli
basilica. The Sibyls were symbols of wisdom and knowledge; they are portrayed holding cartouches with St. Thomas' statements.
The end wall is decorated with a frescoed high altar with the Annunciation within a stucco frame and the Assumption of the Virgin at the sides and in the upper section. The scene is located within a fake arch supported by pilasters with agave-decorated columns (candelabre). The subjects portrayed include a Roman ship with an olive tree branch, an allusion to Oliverio Carafa's command of the papal fleet (1472) against the Turks. Lippi copied the ship from a Roman relief in the basilica of San Lorenzo
fuori le Mura (now in the Musei Capitolini). The frieze, which is now only partially preserved, shows other subject related to the Cardinal's activities, while on the upper frame are angels with the Carafa coat of arms.