Saturday, January 31, 2015

Baroque Splendor in Rome : Chiesa Sant' Ignazio


When I think of the Renaissance, I think of Florence. Rome brings to mind the ancient world and the Baroque. The Chiesa Sant' Ignazio Loyola is a triumph of Baroque architecture and art and to it say pulls out all the stops does not even begin to explain its grandeur. I question whether there is a square  inch of space in the interior that is not carved, gilded, painted or decorated in some fashion. The scale of the interior is monumental, yet it is not heavy in feel, rather it is uplifting. At times these large churches and cathedrals are designed to dominate us with their imposing size and power, but I never feel that here, rather, I am mesmerized by the frescoed ceiling.
James took the above photo of the interior and if you look hard you will see a lone figure, that's me standing in the center aisle under Pozzo's 'dome'. And, by the way, this is Rome, where are the crowds?

The soaring  frescoed ceiling of the nave and apse of Sant'Ignazio  are a masterpiece of perspective
by the artist Andrea Pozzo.  Standing directly beneath it you see it from one point of view, walk to the center of he church aisle, turn and walk slowly back to the point beneath it, you will see that it changes.  Note the painted corner columns and the figures, as you draw closer , the artist is manipulating what we see with his use of perspective and cast shadows. It is stunning....and hurts the brain a little!

 Clouds and sky appear as you stand below. The figures seemingly continue to ascend beyond the confines of the physical building. Just look at everyone flying around, there is nothing static here, it's wild and without restraint.

The Jesuit church was designed by a jesuit mathematician Orazio Grassi  ( with Carlo Maderno) in 1626 to celebrate the canonization of Sant'Ignatius Loyola. Artist Andrea Pozzo was commissioned to paint The Triumph of St. Ignatius on the ceiling of the church, as well as paint a trompe l'oeil  cupola and dome, for funds had run out to construct a dome. Again, like Pozzo's fresco, the dome is a remarkable example of trompe l'oeil, or fool the eye. The dome is painted on flat canvas that is 17m across. From given points of view, a three dimensional interior of a dome comes into being, walk away and peer back and it collapses.
How did he do this???
No need for 3-D glasses here, it's all for the naked eye to see.

At times it is difficult to separate reality from painting. This is Baroque theatre at some of its finest, although Rome does offer many opportunities to witness Baroque splendor and drama, this remains on our list of must see Baroque churches, although there are a few others that tromp this one, but I will save those for another post. A hint though....Bernini and Borromini are the architects.

Back to the story... In comparison to Sant' Ignazio is The Gesu, also a Jesuit church which provides similar theatre, and is not too far from Sant' Ignazio. The Baroque is always pushing outside of the confines of a frame or here the confines or walls and ceiling, it knows no bounds.

The angel ( in red) appears to be suspended in air, and I suppose with wings that is possible, yet one foot rests on a wall.... or appears to anyway. This is a 3-D mind teaser. It is hard to remember this is all paint and we are at the mercy of this playful artists hand - where does the real stop  and the art begin. It can be quite perplexing and all the while astonishing.

Then, when you just cannot look up any longer, step out the front doors and into the Piazza di Sant' Ignazio for a continuation of Baroque theatre.

James and I both agree that this is one of our favorite piazzas in Rome, The Baroque-Rocco buildings were also commissioned by the Jesuits about one hundred years after the church. They are elegant with their convex and concave facades creating visual movement. Again, the Baroque is always a lively dance.

All this is a terrific experience, but our necks ache from all the looking up and our brains are full from thinking about Pozzo's mind-boggling use of perspective games. Is it time to sit down for coffee,James say yes!
Caffe Sant' Eustachio is close by. Ready to eat? Armando al Pantheon is probably out since we didn't reserve. A coffee first, then a walk over to Orso 80 for antipasti. or better yet, some quick shopping at Campo dei Fiori market and head home for lunch. Perfect!

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