June 26: Il Gesù

2016/06/26 § Leave a comment

On this day in 1568 construction began on the Gesù.

The headquarters of God’s Marines funded by a Farnese cardinal, the great Jesuit church was constructed in the center of Rome after the designs of Giacomo Vignola, the go-to architect for the Farnese family.  Other architects would later finish the facade and interior furnishings, but Vignola set the stage with his broad, open, barn of an interior which shows the effects of the Counter-Reformation in church design (and probably not a little influence from Alberti’s church of San Andrea in Mantua).  A giant Roman barrel vault rests on walls that give access to individual chapels rather than side aisles, compressing the congregation into the large central space with all eyes on the altar and pulpit, framing the community of believers and serving the visual and auditory needs to take in the sacraments.  All of the glorious ornament, from the gilded pilasters to relief sculpture and acres of frescoes–especially the stunning Worship of the Holy Name of Jesus by Gaulli–fulfilled the emotional preferences of believers on the cusp of late Renaissance/early Baroque periods.

When you are there, don’t let them detract from the clear, perfect forms and ideal proportions of Vignola’s great architecture.  Bernini didn’t, and prayed here daily, face-down in the nave.

Image: interior (Clio’s)

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You are currently reading June 26: Il Gesù at Clio’s Calendar: Daily Musings on Architectural History.

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