The church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome has a simple facade. But wait until you get inside; it is brimming with magnificent treasures!
The original church was built on this site in 1099. Bramante and Bernini made additions to the structure. Santa Maria del Popolo is packed with priceless art. Two of the Chigi cardinals are buried here; the mausoleum in the Chigi Chapel is by Raphael and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Cardinal Della Rovere is also here. I love the kneeling skeleton floor medalion with the Chigi coat of arms.
Visit the gorgeous Della Rovere Chapel and be sure to admire the The oldest stained glass window in Rome by the French artist Guillaume de Marcillat. The tombs of Cardinals Ascanio Sforza and Girolama Basso della Rovere were designed by Andrea Sansovino and are located in the apse that was designed by Bramante.
The Cerasi Chapel has two paintings by Caravaggio: “The Martyrdom and Crucifixion of St. Peter” (St. Peter was crucified upside down) on the right side of the Chapel and “Conversion of Saint Paul on the Way to Damascus” on the left side of the chapel.
These paintings were commissioned by Tiberio Cerasi in 1600.
Caravaggio’s The Conversion on the Way to Damascus
I love the painting between the two Caravaggio paintings.
The Chigi Chapel is the most lavishly decorated. The wealthy Sienese banker Agostino Chigi commissioned Raphael to design and decorate the octagonal funerary chapel. On the altar, admire Sebastiano del Piombo, the “Nativity of the Virgin.”
“Jonah and the Great Fish” was done by Lorenzetto.
The other two statues of Daniel and Habakkuk are by Bernini. The angel is telling Habakkuk to take the basket of food to the famished Daniel in the lions’ den in Babylon.
Bernini also did the circular medallion portraits on the Pyramidal tombs of Agostino and Sigismondo Chigi.
In the inscription on the floor of “Death”, Bernini added the inscription, “Death is the way to Heaven.”
In the dome, God the creator of the heavens is surrounded by the symbols of the planets guided by angels.
The main altar has as image of the Virgin. Below the 13th century image of the Virgin it says: “You are the honor of our people.” There are two statues of Augustinian saints on either side of the picture of the Virgin: Nicholas of Tolentino on
the left and William of Maleval on the right.
In Santa Maria del Popolo, the Della Rovere Chapel has a beautiful fresco by Pinturicchio depicting the Nativity and the life of St. Jerome.
The Cybo Chapel has sixteen columns of Sicilian jasper with an altarpiece by Carlo Maratta, “Immaculate Conception with Saints.” On the sides of the chapel are the twin tombs of the Cybo Cardinals; Lorenzo on the left and Alderano on the right.
After all that magnificent art, have a Vino con Vista at the Rosati Cafe.
Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Italy Travel Guides. To learn more about Rome visit www.vino-con-vista.com.
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