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Chiesa il Gesu - The Church of Jesus.  St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) kept the name of the order's main church as simple and direct as the name of the order.  What he created though is the most unique church in Rome. While much of Il Gesu's design was copied in churches of the order in other countries, it remains a one of a kind in Rome.




Il Gesu was fifty years in building and was consecrated in 1584.  The basilica was built on a lot occupied by an existing church, Santa Maria della Strada, which was removed.  The presence of surrounding buildings, however, influenced the shape and design of the new building.




The nave of the basilica.  Chapels occupy the aisles on either side of the nave.  Michelangelo offered to design the building free but was turned down.  A Cardinal of the Farnese family (who paid for the construction) chose instead their family architect.





The high altar.  This area was redesigned and rebuilt in the middle of the 19th century.   The altarpiece painting, The Circumcision, dates back to the original construction and was done by Giovanni Batista Gaulli, who went by the name Baciccia.  Most of the frescoes in the church are the work of Baciccia.




The painting of the apse, Glory of the Mystical Lamb, is also a work of Baciccia. 




The Dome.  In the picture above, the apse is to the right, the right transept is toward the top of the picture and the left transept toward the bottom.  This church was not good on the herniated discs in my neck.  The dome painting in the middle is by Baciccia and is called The Vision of Heaven.




Due to the space constraints of building the basilica between existing buildings, there was no room for normal transepts.  The shortened transepts each have one chapel.  Each chapel is of high significance to the Jesuits  however.  Above is the arch over the left transept which houses the Tomb of St. Ignatius Loyola. The arch overhead is covered with Baciccia's St. Ignatius in Glory.




The arch over the right transept has a series of paintings by Giovanni Andrea Carlone.  The center one is Apotheosis of the Saint.




The center of attention is always the fresco on the vault of the nave.  This is probably the most well known fresco in Rome after Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel works at St. Peter's Basilica.  The picture above shows Baciccia's Triumph of the Name of Jesus.  Baciccia was assisted in this work by two of his students.  The painting flows out onto tilted boards and statuary which causes the whole scene to spill out of it's frame and give the work an amazing three dimensional quality.




The work as it appears as part of the vault and walls.




Baciccia sought to depict the saints ascending to join Jesus in heaven while the unjust fell away into hell.  A closer view of one detail.



Another closer view.  This work by Baciccia is truly impressive.  It's beautiful in a photo; in reality it is awesome.  Due to it's overuse by young people, I don't use that word much but here it applies.   What is even more impressive is that Baciccia undertook this work when he was 22 years old.




The pulpit suspended from one of the piers in the nave.




The tomb of St. Ignatius Loyola by Andrea Pozzo, a Jesuit artist around 1700.  Pozzo employed over a hundred skilled craftsmen working with gold, silver, bronze, marble, lapis lazuli, malachite, and porphyry to produce one of the most splendid tombs in Rome.  One of the church's three organs is elevated to the right.




I remained thoroughly confused about where the reported larger-than-life silver statue of St. Ignatius was to be found, having read about it.  Since I was there so early in the morning, there was no one to ask.  When we returned, I found the answer in further reading.  At 17:30 hours (some say 15:30) every day, religious music sounds throughout the basilica and the altar painting is lowered by machinery into the floor to expose the statue.  Although the statue is only an imitation stucco one covered with silver foil (the original having been melted down in the 18th century to pay a demand by Napoleon Bonaparte), I would like to have viewed it.  This could be grounds for another trip.




Below the altar are the remains of the saint.




The better of the two statue arrangements on either side of the altar.  This one on the right side is Pietro Le Gros' The Triumph of Faith over Heresy, which depicts Mary (or the Church if you prefer) casting Martin Luther and Jan Huss into hell while the little cherub assistant rips up their heretical writings.  One of the main reasons for the founding of the Jesuit order was to oppose the heresy of the Reformation and to lead the counter-Reformation.




Opposite the tomb of St. Ignatius in the right transept is the memorial Altar of St. Francis Xavier, one of the cofounders of the Society of Jesus.  Below the altar is the remains of the right forearm of St. Francis, the arm which is thought to have baptised 300,000 people.  The rest of his remains are in the Jesuit church in Goa.




The Altar of St. Francis Xavier was designed by Pietro da Cortona.  The carved torch-bearing angels are superb works of art themselves.





The Chapel of the Crucifix is to the left of the tomb of St. Ignatius and contains this carved representation of the man for whom the basilica was named.





In the Chapel of Santa Maria degli Astalli to the right of the tomb of St. Ignatius is this 14th century icon called Santa Maria della Strada which was taken from the eponymous church razed to provide space for the construction of Il Gesu.  St. Ignatius was said to have meditated before this icon repeatedly while formulating the plan for the creation of the Society of Jesus.  He was quite fond of it and ordered it to be moved from the old church to the new.  It was restored in 2007.  Over the years, lesser artists had changed it, always for the worse, including the colors.




One of the statues in the lower rim of the dome viewed by telephoto from the front entrance.  This statue always caught my eye as I looked down the nave toward the altar.  I got determined to get an acceptable free-hand telephoto shot of it.