Three bees make up the coat of arms of the Barberini family. Although the bees have disappeared from the coat of arms of Pope Urban VIII (born Maffeo Barberini), which crowns the facade of Santi Luca e Martina, they are still to be seen buzzing about elsewhere on (and in) the church.
Santi Luca e Martina, which overlooks the Forum Romanum, was founded in the early 7th century when it was dedicated simply to Saint Martina. In 1577 the Accademia di San Luca, the academy of painters, sculptors and architects, was created, and in 1588 it was given the church, which was rededicated to both St Luke (patron saint of artists) and St Martina.
In 1634, the painter Pietro Berrettini (1596-1669) was elected president of the academy. Pietro da Cortona, as he was better known, immediately embarked on rebuilding the church. Funding came from Cardinal Francesco Barberini, papal nephew of Pope Urban VIII (r. 1623-44). It was completed in 1679, ten years after Cortona's death.
The design of Santi Luca e Martina follows a Greek-cross plan, the centre of which is crowned by a beautiful dome. The interior decoration of the dome has been attributed to Cortona's pupil and collaborator, Ciro Ferri (1634-89). The stucco reliefs on the four pendentives were added in the 18th century.
Blogging about Rome,
its art, history and culture.
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
small-group walking tours
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