The 16th century church of San Luigi dei Francesi is the national church of France. The design of the facade has been attributed to Giacomo della Porta (1532-1602). The four statues are by the French sculptor Pierre de l'Estache (c.1688-1774) and depict Charlemagne and King St Louis of France (lower facade) and St Clotilde and St Jeanne de Valois. The two tondi at the base depict salamanders, the emblem of King Francois I (r. 1515-47). The façade is crowned by the coat of arms of France, the work of Nicolaus Mostaert, better known asNiccolò Fiammingo (c.1530-1604).
The church's extravagantly ornate interior was designed by the French architect Antoine Dérizet (1685-1768) and completed in 1756. The gilded stucco work of the ceiling of the nave contains images of the French fleur de lys. The central panel has a painting of the Apotheosis of St Louis, which was executed by Charles-Joseph Natoire (1700-77).
The sanctuary has a dome, which is coffered in hexagons containing stars and rosettes. The pendentives sport stucco sculptures of the four Latin Doctors of the Church (St Augustine, St Jerome, St Ambrose and Pope St Gregory the Great). The high altar is a painting of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary by Francesco Bassano the Younger (1549-92).
San Luigi dei Francesi is a well-trodden stop on the Caravaggio trail. The Cappella Contariniis home to three beautiful scenes from the life of Saint Matthew, which Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) painted between 1599 and 1602. This was the artist's first public commission and was executed for the heirs of Cardinal Matthieu Cointrel, who had died in 1585.
The third chapel on the left is dedicated to St Louis of France (1214-70). It is the most sumptuously decorated chapel in the church and was designed by Plautilla Bricci (1616 - c.1700), a female artist and architect, who also painted the altarpiece.
In the left aisle stands a monument to the French artist Claude Gellée(1600-82), better known as Claude Lorrain, by Paul Le Moyne (1784-1883). Lorrain, who lived for much of his adult life in Rome, is famous for his paintings of the Roman countryside. He was originally buried in the church of Ss Trinita dei Monti, but in 1840 his remains were transferred to San Luigi dei Francesi.