Sant' Ignazio di Loyola a Campo Marzio is a 17th century collegiate and titular church on the Piazza di Sant'Ignazio. The postal address is Via del Caravita 8/A. Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons here. There is an English Wikipedia page here.
The church is in the rione Pigna, but the piazza is in the rione Colonna. The boundary actually runs along the bottom of the stairs leading to the front entrances of the church.
Also like that church, it has a special patron in the city's government (Comune di Roma).
The history of the church is bound up with the institution for which it was intended, the Collegio Romano. This was a brain-child of St Ignatius, who had founded his Society while studying at the University of Paris and wished to establish a similar educational institution in Rome. However, lack of resources meant a very low-key start and the college was opened in a private house on the Piazza d'Aracoeli in 1551. Rome lacked a free public school then, and the notice above the door read "Free school for grammar, the humanities and Christian doctrine". It was open to seculars and clerics, but not to women.
It moved in the same year to premises in what is now the Via del Gesù, and again in 1558 to a location round the back of Santa Maria in Via Lata.
Santa Maria AnnunziataEdit
Meanwhile, a noblewoman called Vittoria della Tolfa, Marchese della Valle was in the ownership of the city block in between what are now the Piazza di Sant'Ignazio and the Piazza del Collegio Romano. It was her intention to found a Poor Clare nunnery here, dedicated to the Annunciation, and the walls of its church had already attained half their proposed height by 1555. However, she changed her mind and offered the property to the Jesuits as a permanent site for the College -without any cash donation.
The Jesuits were short of funds themselves, and took up work on the church in 1562 under Giovanni Tristano, one of their number. The building work was also done by Jesuits. They completed it in 1565, and moved the college next door.
This church is often described in the published descriptions as very small (chiesuola), but in fact it was a building of some dignity. There was a single rectangular nave with an apse, and a façade of two storeys. The first storey had four Ionic pilasters supporting an entablature, and a central doorway with a triangular pediment. The second storey had a matching set of four pilasters, and a central round window in a curlicued square frame. There was a crowning triangular pediment, with the coat-of-arms of the Orsini family in memory of the Marquesa's husband.
The location seems to have been where the right hand end of the transept now is.
In 1571, Federico Zuccari provided a fresco for the apse which became famous. Side chapels were added in 1580.
The institution had become an enormous success, and permanent college buildings were begun in 1582. The project was enthusiastically supported by Pope Gregory XIII , and the new premises were ready two years later.
In 1621, Gregory XV Ludovisi was elected pope. He had been a pupil of the College, and was a firm supporter of the Jesuits. As a result, he canonized St Ignatius in 1622. Further, the old church was inadequate for the number of pupils studying at the College, and he suggested to his nephew Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi that a larger new church would be a good idea. The latter agreed, and put up 200 000 gold scudi as a development fund -an enormous sum. The next four years saw the demolition of part of the College to clear the site.
The cardinal wanted the job done properly, and in 1626 appointed a committee chaired by Orazio Grassi, Jesuit professor of mathematics at the College. On this were Martino Longhi the Younger, Carlo Maderno (who was dead in three years), Paolo Maruscelli and Orazio Torriani. The artist Domenichino was allegedly also involved, but apparently his suggestions were not well received and he took offence.
In the following year, Antonio Sasso (also a Jesuit) was appointed as deputy supervisor and the foundation stone was laid. The vault of the nave was completed by 1649, because in that year Alessandro Algardi executed the stucco ornament in the nave. (Formerly he was also credited with the façade, but Grassi designed that himself.) Then in 1650 the old church of La Annunziata was cleared away, and the College started to use the nave for its liturgical celebrations. It was in this year also that the church was opened for public worship.
The structure, apart from the proposed dome, was completed in 1685. The thirty-five years' delay hints at financial problems. These also affected the initial interior decoration, which the Jesuits set out to do "in-house". Unlike other religious orders, they disapproved of the leasing out of side chapels to noble families to decorate at their own expense (although they relaxed this rule here later).
A French Jesuit artist from Saint-Omer called Pierre de Lattre (1603-83) was appointed for the frescoes, and he executed work in the side chapels, the sacristy and behind the altar in the new apse. He also provided altarpieces for the chapels. Unfortunately, unlike his brilliant Jesuit successor Andrea Pozzo, he was not very good and much of his work here has been superseded.
The year 1685 saw the end of construction. The dome was never built, either because money had run out (very likely), or because the supporting piers were already settling (allegedly, in which case the Jesuits had made a mess of the surveying). Whatever, Andrea Pozzo had the bright idea of covering the void with an illusionistic oil painting depicting the proposed dome interior. This attracted admiration, and remains in place.
Pozzo had impressed, and in return was given the task of continuing the interior decoration. He executed the stupendous nave vault fresco between 1691 and 1694, and designed the equally stupendous transept altars in 1697. The right hand one was finished by 1700, but the left hand one took longer. He frescoed the vaults of these, and also the walls and conch of the apse.
The result is the present edifice, which has not had much in the way of alterations since.
In 1712 the Chapel of St Joseph (second on the right in the nave) was given over to the Sacripanti family, who had it re-fitted by Nicola Michetti. As a result, it is more sumptuous than the other nave chapels.
In 1722, the church was consecrated by Cardinal Antonfelice Zondadari which indicates the intention not to complete the dome. Shortly after this, in 1728, the piazza was redeveloped by Filippo Raguzzini to give a symmetrical Baroque townscape which is regarded as his masterpiece.
In 1749, the Lancelotti family sponsored embellishments to the right hand transept chapel, and in the following year the opposite chapel was finally finished with the inauguration of its altarpiece.
In 1773, Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Jesuits after massive pressure from the crowned heads of Europe. Allegedly, the Society were in the midst of a campaign of continued improvement to the interior decoration of this church and had accumulated a large stock of rare coloured marbles. The pope sequestered this, and gave it over for use at San Luigi dei Francesi and Sant'Antonio dei Portoghesi, both national churches (not a coincidence). Hence, some of the nave side chapels are pretty poor compared to the rest of the church.
The College was shut down, and replaced by the Roman Seminary which moved in from its premises next to San Macuto nearby.
Serious damage was done to the complex during the French occupation. The Jesuits were re-founded in 1804, but institutional interests prevented their recovering the church and college premises until 1824.
During the Roman Republic of 1849, more damage was done including by a deliberately set fire which damaged the rooms of St Aloysius. This was quickly put right.
in 1853, an astronomical observatory was put on the church where the dome should have been. The college already had an observatory in a tower, but that was too small for modern instruments. The project was by the Jesuit astronomer Angelo Secchi, who was very highly regarded at the time in his field.
In 1873, together with most of the other convents in the city, the College was sequestered by the Italian government. This included its fittings and its very large library, which was added to the national library being founded. Secchi was allowed to continue his work until his death in 1878 when the state took over the observatory, too.
The Jesuits were allowed to continue in charge of the church, together with a few adjacent rooms including those of St Aloysius. The rest of the college premises were initially used as an army barracks, but a public school (liceo-ginnasio statale) was quickly established here and named after Ennio Quirino Visconti.
The observatory became useless in the 20th century because of street lighting, and was shut down in 1923. As a result, its equipment was removed from the roof of the church although some structures have been left in situ.
The church nowadays perhaps functions more as a devotional centre than a pastoral one for the Jesuits, the latter rôle being taken in the main by the Gesù nearby. The former college is also now the home of the Italian government's department of cultural affairs (Beni Culturali), sharing the complex with the school.
The last titular deacon of the church is H.E. Cardinal Roberto Tucci, S.J., who was appointed on February 21, 2001. In 2011, his dignity was elevated to that of cardinal-priest pro hac vice but he died in 2015. The title is currently vacant.
Layout and fabricEdit
The church takes up the north-west quadrant of the city block occupied by the Collegio Romano complex. It has the plan of a Latin cross superimposed on a rectangle. The nave is flanked by three identically designed side chapels on each side, each square with a lead saucer dome having a lantern with a hemispherical lead cupola.
The arms of the cross are the transept, as wide as the nave and side chapels. Then comes the shallow rectangular presbyterium, and finally the apse which intrudes into the north-west corner of the college cloister ranges to the south. The conch of the apse is externally a lead semi-dome. The presbyterium is flanked by two more domed annexes resembling side chapels.
The fabric is in brick, with architectural details including the entire façade in travertine limestone. In between the nave chapels are massive buttresses supporting the nave side walls and hence the vault. Unusually, the entire roofline of the church is occupied by a parapet -including the façade.
The roofing is pitched and tiled. The nave, transept and sanctuary have separate pitches. The footings of the proposed dome protrude through the transept roof, but not to form a complete circle.
The piazza in front of the church, framed by two symmetrical Baroque apartment blocks erected 1727-1728, is the work of Filippo Raguzzini. It is a good example of 18th century urban planning in Rome.
The façade was designed by Orazio Grassi himself, although it is still being attributed to Alessandro Algardi. The influence of the façade of the Gesù is obvious. Grassi was careful to divide the plane of the façade into protruding and recessed vertical zones, hence avoiding the appearance of a cliff-face, and the chiaroscuro effect produced is strong and successful. Unfortunately, the whole work is over-sized in relation to the piazza in front of it and so it is difficult to get a good photo of it.
The first storey is on a low plinth, and hence is approached by a flight of stairs which are brought forward in front of the central entrance to form a patio. This storey has ten Corinthian pilasters, two flanking the main entrance and the other eight in two pairs on either side. The two side entrances are between these pairs, and the pilasters facing these entrance are doubletted along their edges on that side. In between the pilaster capitals are floral swags.
The entablature that these pilasters support is stepped vertically over their capitals, and the capital fragments of the doublet strips. It bears an inscription in honour of Cardinal Ludovisi:
S[ancto] Ignatio, Soc[ietatis] Iesu fundatori, Lud[ovicus] Card[inalis] Ludovisius S[anctae] R[omanae] E[cclesiae] Vice-Cancellar[ius], A[nno] Dom[ini] MDCXXVI.
The entrance doorways are similarly treated, although the central one is larger. Oversized segmental pediments are raised on block posts supported by strap corbels, with swag and curlicue embellishments. Above the side entrances are two blank square tablets with wide molded Baroque frames, and flanking the main entrance is a pair of empty round-headed niches with triangular pediments.
The main entrance has a prothryrum formed by attaching a pair of Doric semi-columns to the two flanking pilasters. The entablature, with its inscription, is brought forward over their capitals and above is a large segmental pediment intruding into the second storey.
The second storey sits on an attic plinth, vertically stepped to match the entablature below and with blank recessed panels. On this are six Corinthian pilasters, two matching those flanking the main entrance and four in two pairs at the outer corners. The outer edges of the outermost pilasters are doubletted, and next to these is a pair of gigantic single volutes. Unusually, the tops of these are given Corinthian capital fragments as well. These pilasters support a second entablature, which again is vertically stepped over their capitals. On top is a triangular pediment, bearing six flaming torch finials and a central metal cross.
There is a central round-headed window, within an aedicule formed by a triangular pediment supported by a pair of little Corinthian semi-columns. This is flanked by the inner two pilasters and, as with the entrance below, these have a pair of semi-columns attached. The entablature is brought forward over the capitals of these, and so is the section of pediment above. This bears the Ludovisi coat-of-arms in relief.
In between the pilasters in this storey is another pair of empty round-headed niches, which have segmental pediments instead.
Layout and fabricEdit
The interior is laid out on the plan of a Latin cross. It has a wide nave, with six large chapels on each side, then a transept with a dome over the crossing. The sanctuary has a large apse. The decorative elements are mostly in the Baroque style.
The arches into the side chapels form arcades, being separated by pairs of gigantic ribbed Corinthian pilasters. These support an entablature which runs around the interior, the cornice of which is dentillated and has prominent modillions (little brackets). The ceiling vault springs from this, with three large windows on each side in shallow lunettes.
The counterfaçade has a large dedicatory tablet over the main entrance, describing the foundation of the church by Cardinal Ludovisi. It is accompanied by stucco allegorical statues of Glory and Religion, and above is the cardinal's shield with a pair of putti looking as if they are trying to steal the hat. Two more putti are holding onto swags of flowers embellished with ribbons. All this is by Allessandro Algardi, 1650.
Each chapel arch has a molded archivolt springing from a pair of Ionic columns in pale brown and white mottled marble. Between the arches and the entablature are more stucco relief panels featuring heraldry and putti by Algardi.
The fresco of the nave vault is the masterpiece of Fr. Andrea Pozzo S.J., who painted it in 1685. It depicts the Apotheosis of St Ignatius, who is on a cloud near the Cross in glory in the middle.
This is the supreme example of quadratura, whereby the fresco gives the effect of a three-dimensional effect of perspective on a two-dimensional surface. Here, the actual curves of the vault are completely obscured by the effect. The illusion is created of looking up at the sky while standing at the bottom of an open kiosk with arcaded sides including colonnaded piers.
The illusionistic space is heavily inhabited by heavenly beings. At the ends are two groups of angels starting fires, over tablets that read Ignem veni mittere in terra, et quid volo nisi ut accendetur? ("I came to send fire on the earth, and what do I want except that it burns?"). There is a pun on Ignatius's name here, of course. The sides have allegories of the four continents then known, Africa, Asia, America and Europe. The girls ride on a crocodile, camel, jaguar and horse respectively.
Pozzo also originally painted the illusionistic image of the interior of a dome, on a flat canvas that is 17 meters in diameter stretched across the dome cornice.
The first intention was to build a dome, but this proved too expensive and the effort was abandoned in the early 18th century. A model of the proposal survives, showing that it would have had an elliptical ribbed dome in lead, on a high drum with four aedicules having segmental pediments. The interior would have been coffered in octagons. The depiction actually seems to correspond quite well with the proposal.
To get the best possible effect of the illusion, stand at the spot marked by a yellow marble plaque in the floor of the nave.
The original canvas was destroyed in a fire at the start of the 19th century, and was replaced by a faithful copy in 1823 by Francesco Manno who had access to Pozzo's cartoons. There was a restoration of this in 1963 by Raffaeleo Lavagnino.
The sanctuary is embellished by four ribbed Corinthian semi-columns in the apse. The high altar, fronted with verde antico, is against the far wall of the apse in between the inner pair of these.
Scenes from the life of St Ignatius in the sanctuary and apse are also by Pozzo. The one in the conch depicts the saint ministering to the plague-stricken. The one on the left shows him receiving the promises of St Francis Borgia ,who ended up as the third superior of the Society. The one in the centre, the altarpiece, depicts the divine assurance that the saint received in a vision at a chapel at La Storta (now Sant'Ignazio alla Storta), and the one on the right shows the saint giving a blessing to St Francis Xavier before the latter's voyage to India.
Above the altarpiece is a gilded stucco relief featuring a scallop shell, and on the posts above the inner pair of columns are two allegorical figures. Between them is a pair of angels holding a tablet that reads: Ego vobis Romae propitius ero, which Christ said to St Ignatius in the vision depicted below. ("I will be propitius to you in Rome".)
The vault of the sanctuary in front of the apse shows the saint at the siege of Pamplona where he was a young soldier taking part in the aggressive conquest by Spain of the little Kingdom of Navarre. A cannonball shattered his leg, and this started his conversion and his ecclesiastical career.
The chapels are described in anticlockwise order, beginning to the left of the entrance.
Chapel of SS Stanislaus KostkaEdit
The first chapel on the right is dedicated to St Stanislaus Kostka, and the early 18th century anonymous altarpiece shows him having a vision of Our Lady in which she gives him the Christ-Child to kiss. The other saint in the picture is St John Francis Regis.
Chapel of St JosephEdit
The second chapel on the left is dedicated to St Joseph, and is the Cappella Sacripanti. It is the most impressive of the nave side chapels. The coved (concave) aedicule is revetted with albaster and lilac marble, and has a pair of Corinthian columns in verde antico. The frame of the altarpiece is in yellow marble. Two stucco angels are on the fragmented and curlicued pediment.
The altarpiece depicting The Death of St Joseph is by Francesco Trevisani, who also executed the frescoes on the pendentives and the right hand lunette fresco showing The Last Communion of St Aloysius Gonzaga. The cupola fresco is by Luigi Garzi. The left hand lunette is by Giuseppe Chiari.
Chapel of St JoachimEdit
The third chapel on the right hand side is dedicated to St Joachim, the father of Our Lady, and the altarpiece of The Presentation of Our Lady is by Pozzo.
St Robert Bellarmine is enshrined here, with his relics in a recumbant effigy dressed in cardianal's robes under the altar. The little picture on the altar is also of him.
Chapel of St Aloysius GonzagaEdit
The two vast, spectacular altars in the ends of the transept were designed by Pozzo as a matching pair, although the one at the right hand side was completed first. It is the Cappella Lancellotti, after the family that sponsored it, and is dedicated to St Aloysius Gonzaga. He was a young Jesuit student of the Roman College, who died at the age of twenty-three and is interred in an urn of lapis lazuli under the altar, behind glass. This has fittings of gilded bronze, and a central sculptural relief in silver. A pair of imprisoned marble putti accompany it, which are by Pierre Legros.
The aedicule has a double plinth, the first to the height of the altar having yellow marble panels framed in red and white jasper. Above is a higher pedestalled plinth with verde antico panels framed in yellow, in the centre of which is a tabernacle with a silver relief of the Resurrection on a lapis lazuli background. Two of the panels have the Lancelotti coat-of-arms in bronze and lapis lazuli.
Then come four enormous helically spiral Corinthian columns in verde antico with bronze capitals, the vines that entwine them also being in bronze. This style of column is known as Solomonic, after a tradition that the original Temple in Jerusalem had them. The outer columns twist in the opposite direction to the inner ones.
The marble high-relief altarpiece sculpture depicting the Apotheosis of St Aloysius Gonzaga is by Pierre Legros the Younger, 1698.
The inner pair of columns support a segmental pediment with a broken cornice, on which sit two stucco allegorical figures depicting Penitence (left) and Purity (right), two virtues especially displayed by the saint. A pair of putti with bronze fronds flank this pediment. Above is a lapis lazuli shield bearing the saint's name with a curlicued bronze frame and putti, and behind the allegorical figures and shield is another pediment which is doubly split, curlicued and distorted -a touch of Rococo.
The vault showing the saint's Apotheosis is by Pozzo. The work also features St Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi, since the two saints knew each other in Florence.
The floor is in polychrome marble work, as is the enclosing balustrade. The two large marble angels on pedestals within the latter are by Bernardino Ludovisi, 1748. They hold lilies in honour of the saint's purity.
Beyond the right transept, in a room at the side of the sanctuary, is the truly monumental and spectacular Baroque monument of Pope Gregory XV and his nephew, Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi. This is by Pierre Legros again. The pope is shown seated on a throne itself placed on a plinth over a verde antico sarcophagus, and backed by a marble drapery hanging from a canopy and attached to two red marble Ionic columns. His nephew has a cameo portrait in an elliptical tondo held by putti below. Two allegorical figures flank the sarcophagus, and two angels fly by the sides of the effigy
Over the doorway to the sanctuary is a fresco fragment of Our Lady, thought to be part of a Annunciation scene. It is poor quality artistry and has not kept well, but it is the only item preserved from the old church on the site. As the tablet below states, it was an object of devotion on the part of the first students of the Collegio Romano including St Aloysius.
The corresponding chamber to the left of the sanctuary is the antechamber to the sacristy. It contains a large stucco statue of St Ignatius by Camillo Rusconi, 1728. It is the model of a marble statue in St Peter's.
The allegorical statues in the corners are by different sculptors. Faith is perhaps by Simone Giorgini, Hope by Giovanni Antonio Lavaggi, Charity by Francesco Nuvolone and Religion is apparently by an artist called Rainaldi.
The sacristy itself was frescoed by Pierre de Lattre, a Jesuit, with scenes from the life of St Ignatius. The Madonna and Child on the 16th century altar is also by him.
Chapel of the AnnunciationEdit
The chapel in the left transept is dedicated to the Annunciation to Our Lady, and has a very similar design to the one opposite. A few details differ, for example the lapis lazuli shields on the column pedestals have the monogram IHS because the Jesuits paid for this one -not a noble family.
Here is the shrine of St John Berchmans, another Jesuit student who died in his early twenties while studying at the Roman College.
The vault fresco showing the Assumption is by Pozzo, and the frescoes to the sides are by Ludovico Mazzanti.
Chapel of the CrucifixEdit
The third chapel on the left is dedicated to the Crucifixion, and was re-fitted in 1893. The wooden crucifix is surrounded by an impressive collection of relics. The assemblage was put together by Giovanni Capranesi. The vault has a fresco of The Vision of St Margaret Mary Alacoque by an artist called Celestino.
Chapel of SS Francis Xavier and Francis BorgiaEdit
The second chapel on the left is dedicated to SS Francis Xavier and Francis Borgia, and has an altarpiece depicting them by Pierre de Lattre. There is a picture of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the altar, by Pietro Gagliardi 1854.
Chapel of St Gregory the GreatEdit
The first chapel on the left is dedicated to St Gregory the Great, and the altarpiece is by Pierre de Lattre again.
The works of this artist have been little regarded by art critics since he executed them in the 17th century, and as a result the last two chapels get scant mention in guidebooks. However, they are an interesting survival of the first decorative scheme for the church interior.
Rooms of St AloysiusEdit
The rooms of St Aloysius are adjacent to the church, and can be visited. The staircase leading to them is found close by his altar.
At times, the door to the staircase is open but the rooms are shut. If you find yourself on the roof in front of a closed door, taking in the view of Rome might appease you.
(2014: Access arrangements may well have been tightened since the above was written.)
The suite of rooms was damaged in a fire in the early 19th century, and their present appearance (including the wall frescoes) dates from 1849.
The church is open:
Weekdays 7:30 (August, 9:00) to 19:00.
Sundays 9:00 to 19:00 (also solemnities).
There are free guided tours (except August) on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays between 15:00 and 18:00.
Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 8:00 (not August), 18:00.
Sundays and solemnities 11:30, 18:00.