Why is there only one angel, and not two, on the upper part of the facade of Sant' Andrea della Valle?
The angel is the work of Giacomo Antonio Fancelli (1619-71), whose brief was to carve two angels. However, so the story goes, no less a figure than Pope Alexander VII (r. 1655-67) found fault with Fancelli's first effort. As a result, the temperamental sculptor declared in a huff, that, if the Pope wanted a second angel, he would have to carve it himself!
Sant' Andrea della Valle was begun in 1591 for the Order of the Theatines*. The initial architects were Giacomo della Porta and Pier Paolo Olivieri. Work was continued by Carlo Maderno, who built the dome, the highest in the city after that of St Peter's Basilica. It is decorated with a fresco of the Glory of Paradise (1621-25) by Giovanni Lanfranco. The Baroque facade was added between 1655 and 1663 by Carlo Rainaldi.
A tiny church dedicated to Saint Sebastian originally occupied the site, but in 1582 Donna Costanza Piccolomini, who was the duchess of Amalfi, bequeathed money and property to the Theatines. Her only stipulation was that a much larger church, and one dedicated to Saint Andrew (patron saint of Amalfi), should be built on the site. Inside the church there are funeral monuments to popes Pius II (r. 1458-64) and Pius III (r. 1503), both members of the Piccolomini family.
*The Congregation of Clerics Regular of the Divine Providence was founded in 1524 by, amongst others, San Gaetano and Giampaolo Carafa, who later became Pope Paul IV (r. 1555-59). The order came to be known as the Theatines, because Carafa, its first Superior General, was Bishop of Theate (modern day Chieti). The order’s objective was to instil virtue in the laity and to reform the clergy.
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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