Santa Maria in Vallicella, better known as the Chiesa Nuova, is the principal church of the Oratorians, a body of priests and lay-brothers that was founded in 1575 by San Filippo Neri (1515-95).
The Chiesa Nuova was begun in 1575 and consecrated in 1599. Initially, the architect was Matteo di Città di Castello, but he was later replaced by Martino Longhi the Elder. The facade, the work of Fausto Rughesi, was completed in 1605. The statues of St Gregory the Great and St Jerome are by Giovanni Antonio Paracca (1546-99), better known as il Valsoldo.
The frescoes in the vault, apse and dome are the work of Pietro da Cortona (1596-1669). The ceiling fresco in the nave depicts St Philip's Vision of the Virgin, while the frescoes in the dome and apse depict, respectively, the Assumption and the Glorification of the Trinity.
The Chiesa Nuova is also home to three paintings by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), the only works by the great Flemish artist still to be found in a Roman church.
A small, oval panel on his painting of the Madonna and Child with Angels (high altar), can be moved aside to reveal the icon of Santa Maria in Vallicella, a miraculous image once seen, it is claimed, to shed blood.
Caravaggio's painting of the Deposition (c. 1600-04), now in the Vatican Museums, was originally commissioned by Girolamo Vittrice for his family chapel (first right) in the Chiesa Nuova. In 1797 it was included in the group of works transferred to Paris, in execution of the Treaty of Tolentino. The painting was duly replaced by a copy. After its return in 1817 it became part of the Vatican's collection.
The emblem of St Philip Neri is a flaming heart (cor flammigerum) and this device can be seen throughout the church. As a young man Neri would often spend the night praying in the catacombs of St Sebastian. One night he had a vision of a globe of fire which descended and entered his heart.
St Philip Neri died on May 26th, 1595. He was canonised on March 12th, 1622.
Blogging about Rome,
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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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