The Jesuit church of Sant’ Ignazio di Loyola is home to one of the most jaw-dropping frescoes in Rome.
The Glory of St Ignatius (c.1688-94), which fills the entire vault of the nave, is the work of Andrea Pozzo (1642-1709), a painter and mathematician, who was also a Jesuit lay brother. When viewed from the correct spot, which is marked by a small marble disc in the pavement, the perspective takes your breath away! The fresco also exalts the activity of the Jesuit Order in the four corners of the world.
Pozzo's skills as a master of illusions also came in handy when he was asked to paint a fake dome. The church was designed to have a dome over the crossing, but money ran out and so Pozzo came up with a painting that gives the illusion of a dome!
Sant' Ignazio, which is dedicated to Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556), the Spanish saint and founder of the Society of Jesus, was built between 1620 and 1656. The church was originally part of the Roman College, one of the Jesuits' earliest educational institutions, which was founded in 1551.
By the early 17th century the college’s chapel had become too small for its 2,000 students and so Gregory XV (r. 1621-23), a college alumnus and the pope who canonised Ignatius Loyola in 1622, persuaded his fabulously rich nephew, Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, to fund the building of a new church.
Both the pope and the cardinal are interred in Sant' Ignazio. The inscription on their extravagantly elaborate funerary monument reads (in translation): ‘One raised St. Ignatius to the altar, while the other raised altars to St. Ignatius’.
The monument was designed by the French sculptor Pierre Legros (1666-1719) and created between 1709 and 1719.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
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