Tag Archives: Architecture

Sumptuous Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona Spain: Cathedral of the Sea

Gothic Church of Santa Maria del Mar

Barcelona Spain

Barcelona Spain

Barcelona Spain

Barcelona Spain

Barcelona SpainI love the Sumptuous Santa Maria dei Mar cathedral in Barcelona Spain; also known as Cathedral of the Sea in Catalonia.

Catalonia was part of the great Aragonese maritime power and at one time it was one of the most prosperous cities in the Mediterranean. The foundation stone of the church was laid by King Alfonso IV of Aragon and the Catalan Gothic church was built between 1329 and 1383. In 1428 an earthquake destroyed the rose window on the west end of the church. It was replaced in the 15th century with a Gothic window. Outside the church, visit the trendy Passeig del Born with plenty of shopping and Vino con Vista opportunities.

Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes travel guides at www.vino-con-vista.com.

Barcelona Spain Santa Maria del Mar

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Alghero’s Cathedral of Santa Maria in Italy

Catalan Gothic cathedral's bell tower in Alghe...

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Alghero is a beautiful coastal city of medieval origin situated in the northwestern coral coast of Sardinia. This town is 300 miles off the coast of Spain near Barcelona. They speak Italian as well as Catalan.

The recently refurbished cathedral of Santa Maria (Cattedrale di Santa Maria Immacolata di Alghero)  stands in Piazza del Duomo on Via Sant’Erasmo. Some of its oldest structures provide an outstanding example of the late Catalan-Gothic period.  This cathedral has been the bishop’s seat since 1503.

Door of the Cathedral’s Bell Tower in Alghero Sardinia

This cathedral is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It has an elaborate apse and an octagonal bell tower with a pyramidal cuspid. Some of the construction has dramatically transformed the interior and the façade. The original facade was replaced in 1862. The changes include four neo-classical Doric Columns supporting a triangular pediment  and a new central staircase.

The bell-tower is behind the church. It was part of the first phase of late Gothic construction and was modeled after the Cathedral of Barcelona. It has an octagonal barrel and pointed arch openings. It is crowned with a slender pyramid-shaped spire with polychrome majolica that is commonly used in Catalonia.  The distinctive Gothic  bell tower can be visited during high season.

Campanile of Santa Maria Cathedral in Alghero Sardinia

In 1503 Pope Julius II  implemented a major overhaul of the dioceses of Sardinia. He was supported in his efforts by King Ferdinand II. The first part of the building was finished during the first half of the XVI century and Alghero’s noble families guaranteed the financing needed to complete the project.

alghero Sardinia

Ornate lions in the cathedral of Alghero

The Cathedral was consecrated in 1730; 400 years after its foundation.  It houses the neoclassical marble mausoleum of the Duke of Monferrato, brother of King Carlo Felice  of Savoy, who died in 1799. This  mausoleum was sculpted by Felice Festa in 1807.

The interior space has three naves, separated by pillars and columns.  There are six chapels adorned with interesting sacred art. The first chapel to the right is dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament and it has an imposing altar consecrated in 1824. The carved marble is decorated the center with a circular temple reminiscent of the Temple of Vesta in Rome.

The Virgin protects the sailors in Alghero Sardinia

The Baptism in Alghero’s Cathedral

The presbytery has five chapels which include the base of the bell tower. It is surrounded by a balustrade, made ​​of inlaid marble with a coral hue. On the sides of the stairway to the altar there are two marble lions that resemble their kindred spirits in the Cathedral of Cagliari.

The balustrated high altar has a group of sculptures depicting the Immaculate Conception accompanied by angels.

The main altar of the cathedral in Alghero Sardinia

There is an elegant pulpit . Behind the wooden choir, in the apse there are five Gothic radial chapels.

Cathedral of Alghero Sardinia

Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Italy Travel Guides available @ www.vino-con-vista.com

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Alghero’s Museum of Sacred Art is Full of Treasures

Alghero‘s origins date back to the 10th century when the Genoese, with the help of Pisans, repelled the Arabs. Then they obtained land grants from the Judges (giudicati) of Logudoro that governed Sardinia during the Middle Ages.

The first capital city for the Giudicato of Logudoro was ancient Torres (now Porto Torres), but it was exposed to Arab attacks. Eventually, the seat of the judgeship was transferred to Ardara and finally to Sassari.

By the tenth century, the map on the right shows that the island was divided into four provinces or giudicati during the High Middle Ages Logudoro in the northwest section was the largest; Gallura to the east; Arborea to the south and Cagliari to the southeast. Later Logudoro and Arborea were combined into one province at the start of the eleventh century.

The Giudicato of Logudoro  was also known as the Giudicato of Torres, after Porto Torres. This area covered the northwest portion of Sardinia from the tenth through the thirteenth century. This is where Alghero is located.

Alghero was built around a fortified port, founded around 1102 by the Genoese Doria family. The Doria ruled it for centuries, apart from a brief period under the rule of Pisa (1283–1284). The Doria had fiefs in Sardinia from the 12th century to the 15th century. They also had fiefdoms in Dolceacqua, Oneglia and Portofino, in the Riviera to the west of Genoa.

In 1353 it was captured by the Aragonese under Bernardo de Cabrera. The Algherese revolted against the garrison’s commanding officer and killed him.  The Spanish responded by sending 12,000 men and 100 galleys to suppress the revolt.  A treaty was signed and the original Sardinian inhabitants were forced to abandon their homes and move to the town of Villanova about 25 killometers away.

The port became the main route between Catolonia and Sardinia and the town of Alghero was inhabited by Catalan colonists creating a distinctive Catonian settlement. The Spanish dominated the city for 360 years. Today, this region of Italy, enclosed with fortress walls is referred to as Little Barcelona. In 1720, control of Alghero passed to the House of Savoy.

To appreciate the sacred history of this charming town, visit the Museo Diocesano d’Arte Sacra. It is located in the historical center of the city of Alghero in the Rosary Church (Chiesa Del Rosario). The former church was enlarged between the 14th and 15th century when the upper floor was added to the structure.

The edifice became a church in the second half of the 17trh century. It was used as a place of worship until the first post-war period and ultimately became a museum in 2000. It is next to the Cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The treasures of the diocese of Alghero-Bosa are preserved in this Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art.

The Museum is in the former Church of Rosario on Piazza Duomo. The building was originally the Oratorio del Rosario; it belonged to the confraternity that founded the church of San Francesco in 1568. The small museum is packed with precious sacred art, artifacts and liturgical treasures.

The museum collection is divided into six sections: silver,  paintings, wooden sculptures, wood carving, stone and bronze. You will find an early 16th century “Our Lady of Sailors” from the Cathedral of the Virgin next door. It is attributed to a Catalan workshop. The museum opened on June 30, 2002 and preserves the Cathedral’s liturgical art, as well as sacred art from other churches in the diocese of Alghero-Bosa.

Our Lady of the Sailors

There is a beautiful “Eucharistic Throne” from 1720 from the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary. It is embossed and engraved from the workshop of Giovanni Andrea Lay from Cagliari.

Eucharistic Throne

There is a 17th century marble statue of  “Our Lady of Mercy” from the Church of Saint Michael that was created by a Ligurian workshop.

I loved the 19th century wooden carving of  “Baby Jesus” (Bambinello) from the Church of Saint Michael. It was adorned with coral and attributed to a Sicilian workshop.


The 17th century “Assumption of the Virgin” is  from a Sardinian workshop.

Assumption of the Virgin

There are precious sacred treasures from Alghero’s historical churches.

St. Lucy

Holy Family

In the Silver section there are beautiful objects created by silversmiths.  There is an impressive Catalan reliquary of the True Cross created by an unknown silversmith from Alghero in 1500.

The 17th century, Reliquary of a Holy Innocent Martyr is embossed in chiseled silver from a Sardinian workshop. It was originally in the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary.


Ornate Crucifix in Alghero Sardinia

This beautiful 17th century jeweled Monstrance (Ostensorio) was made by a silversmith from Trapani in 1679.

In the “Wooden Sculptures” Area of the Museum, there are many saints and representations of the Virgin. The golden statue represents the “Madonna dei Naviganti” by an unknown Catalan artist from the 15th century.

Madonna dei Naviganti


Some of the polychrome wooden carvings from the seventeenth century to the nineteenth centuries include a gigantic San Michele Arcangelo (St.Michael the Archangel) from the end of the 17th century. It was formerly displayed in the church dedicated to St. Michael a few blocks away. The 18th century “Saint Joseph with the Child” from the church of Our Lady of Carmelo  is a polychrome wooden carving from a Neapolitan workshop.

There is a lovely 18th century oil on canvas Italian painting of “The Holy Family with the Saints Joachim and Anna.”

There are also a series of mid-17th century paintings by Genoese painters of scenes from the lives of Jesus and the Virgin. The 17th century brutal Ligurian School representation of the  “Scourging of Christ”  painting below is from the Church of Our Lady of Mercy.

Scourging of Christ

Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Italy Travel Guides @ www.vino-con-vista.com

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Happy Birthday Chicago!

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Happy Birthday Chicago! Uncork your favorite bottle of wine or champagne and toast to Chicago’s 178th birthday was held on March 4, 2015. Crank up your iPhone as you listen to Frank Sinatra sing “My Kind of Town“; originally part of the musical score for Robin and the 7 Hoods, a 1964 musical film starring several members of the Rat Pack.

Cover of "Robin and the Seven Hoods"

Cover of Robin and the Seven Hoods

Chicago is famous for many things including gangsters like Al Capone and the city definitely has some offers that you can’t refuse:

Chicago is also famous for sports teams: Bears, Bulls, Hawks, Cubs and Sox. We have had pretty good record for start-ups: Kraft, Motorola, Baxter, Sara Lee and don’t forget Groupon just to name a few.

English: Chicago Cubs logo

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Chicago Bulls logo

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We have plenty of famous politicians including: 2 Mayor Daleys and President Barack Obama.

President Barack Obama discusses the bid for C...

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Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley

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Richard J. Daley, mayor of Chicago, c. 1971

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Chicago is home to a plethora of superlatives: our higher learning institutons are world-class with some of the best business schools in the world like University of Chicago and Northwestern. The city is brimming with world-class chefs and we have some of the best restaurants in the world like Charlie Trotters and Alinea.

Chicago is a city of neighborhoods with distinctive architecture and ethnic roots.

Map of Chicago's community areas, grouped by c...

Map of Chicago’s community areas, grouped by color by “side” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But one or our most endearing and enduring blessings is our world-class architecture! Generally, to celebrate Chicago’s birthday, some of her architectural shining stars will turn blue including:

the Willis Tower, the Trump Tower, the Merchandise Mart and the Prudential Building.

Deutsch: Chicago am Ufer des Lake Michigan Eng...

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Chicago‘s Columbian Exposition in the 1890’s spawned a flourishing legacy of global architectural pre-eminence and outstanding architecture in Chicago. Daniel Burnham’s passion for Beaux Arts priniciples of design generated a flurry of world-class structures. Chicago architects and structural engineers are still staking claims to global architectural marvels.

Much of new classical research was conducted a...

Much of new classical research was conducted at the University of Chicago. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chicago World's Columbian Exposition, 1893

Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition, 1893 (Photo credit: Smithsonian Institution)

Bill Baker is a structural engineer who works at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill‘s (SMO) Chicago office in the landmark, 17 story Sante Fe Building. He can be credited with more supertall buildings of over 1000 feet than any other structural engineer in the world including the Trump Tower. The “Burl Khalifa” in Dubai is world’s tallest building at 160 stories. It is almost twice as tall as the building formerly known as the Sears Tower in Chicago. Bill was instrumental in designing The Burl with architect Adrian Smith at SMO.

Two of my favorite vintage buildings include the majestic Wrigley Building and the Gothic Revival Tribune building located at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River.

The Gothic Revival Tribune Tower in Chicago

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The distinctive clock tower of the Wrigley Building reminds me of Big Ben in London. There are 250,000 glistening glazed terra cotta tiles covering the classical structure that was completed in 1924 by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White. Quite appropriate for the great “White City.” The beautiful neo-gothic Tribune Tower is across the street from the Wrigley building. The 26 foot Sculpture of Marilyn Monroe is next to the Tribune Tower.

Wrigley Building

chicago wrigley building

I love the juxtaposition of the classic architecture with the modern architecture of buildings like the sleek Trump Tower. There’s a great view of the Wrigley Clock from Trump’s 16th floor restaurant aptly named “Sixteen.” They have an outstanding Sunday Brunch so why not celebrate Chicago’s Birthday party there!

Chicago Architecture

Chicago is a mecca for world-class museums, restaurants and hotels with plenty of “Vino con Vista” opportunities. The Michelin Guide for Chicago was released in November 2011.

Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Travel Guides and Vino Con Vista Travel Guides can be purchased at these sites

Happy Birthday Chicago from www.vino-con-vista.com

Chicago River Walk

Chicago Restaurants

Chicago Park Hyatt

Meioi Pinot NoirChicago Water Tower

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Francesco Borromini’s Church of Sant Ivo alla Sapienza in Rome

Cupola di Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza

Cupola di Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza is located on Corso del Rinascimento at the end of the Palazzo della Sapienza courtyard.  It is the only church in Rome with a corkscrew, twisted spiral spire.  The corkscrew spiral was the  inspiration for the spire of Vor Frelsers Kirke in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza by Francesco Borromini

Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza by Francesco Borromini (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This Baroque church was built between 1642 and 1660 in the ancient courtyard of the Università la Sapienza (University of Knowledge), by Francesco Borromini.

IMG 0397 - Sant'Ivo alla sapienza

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This was originally the chapel church of the University of Rome (La Sapienza).  Sapienza means “Knowledge” and it was the first university founded in Rome.

Click here to watch a video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0xzXhJ-_-E.

The façade is decorated with columns that are incorporated into the walls. There are semi-circular arched windows which rise toward the spiral capital that is supporting the cupola.

On the main altar, there is a painting depicting the following Saints: Ives, Leo, Pantaleone, Luke, Catherine of Alexandria, in “The Glory of the Saints” (1661) by Pietro da Cortona. This university in Rome is dedicated to its namesake, Saint Ives (patron saint of the jurists). He is considered ” The Advocate of the Poor.”

English: Dome of the Chapel Sant’Ivo, designed...

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Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza was consecrated in 1660 and was built by the architect Francesco Borromini. Since one of the distinctive characteristics of the church is the beautiful corkscrew spire on the dome; for 15 years after  placing the spire on the roof,  Borromini was responsible for it  in case it collapsed. Inside the church, you can also admire the portrait of Saint Ives on the altar.

Francesco Borromini

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SantIvo Bees

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The church of Saint Ives was built under the direction of Cardinal Barberini. You can observe the Barberini Bees on the facade of the church.

SantIvo Dome

SantIvo Dome (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The church began as a chapel of the palace of the University of Rome. The University is called La Sapienza, and the church is devoted to Saint Yves.

Borromini SantIvo Cut

Borromini SantIvo Cut (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Statue de saint Yves.

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Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Italy Travel Guides @ www.vino-con-vista.com

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I love Santa Maria Maggiore Church and the Re-enactment of Rome’s Blizzard: St. Mary of the Snows

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English: Central nave of Basilica di Santa Mar...

English: Central nave of Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome Italiano: Navata centrale della Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore a Roma (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Italiano: Rosone all'interno della Basilica di...

Italiano: Rosone all’interno della Basilica di santa Maria Maggiore a Roma. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Head of the Blessed Virgin Mary (deta...

English: Head of the Blessed Virgin Mary (detail) adorning the Puerta Santa of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, Italy. Français : Tête de la Vierge Marie (détail) ornant la Porte Sainte de l’église Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, Italie. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the Roman / Early Christian Nave Mosaic...

One of the Roman / Early Christian Nave Mosaics depicting the Story of Moses, Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome, Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

"Sacra Culla" in Basilica di Santa M...

“Sacra Culla” in Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, in front of main altar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Frontview of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. Pan...

Frontview of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. Panaorama from 3 images. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Piazza Esquilino with Basilica di Santa Maria ...

Piazza Esquilino with Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome, Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Português: Capela Borghese, Santa Maria Maggio...

Português: Capela Borghese, Santa Maria Maggiore, Roma. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Triomphal Arch Mosaics in the Basilic...

English: Triomphal Arch Mosaics in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, right side, fourth register from up (bottom) Italiano: Roma, Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, mosaici dell’arco trionfale, lato destro, quarto registro dall’alto (registro inferiore) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Foundation of Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica

Foundation of Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of the four greater basilicas of Rome and it has two facades. One of them is  located in Piazza Esquilino. One of the facades has twin domes. The rear facade faces the lovely Marian Column and has a massive bell-tower.

Santa Maria Maggiore bell tower

According to legend, on the night of August 5, 356 the Madonna appeared in a dream to a nobleman and the Pope (cannonized Saint Liberius). She asked them to build a sanctuary dedicated to her on the summit of Esquiline Hill. The dream foretold of a blizzard that miraculously occurred on  August 5, 352. According to this legend, on the morning of August 5th, 358, the Esquiline Hill in Rome was completely covered in snow. In an apparition, the Virgin promised pope Liberius that this would happen.

The Basilica of Santa Maria di Maggiore or St. Mary Major,  was built in this area and it is one of the most important churches of Rome. Inside the Church stands the icon of the “Madonna Salus Populi Romani”, which translates to “The Protectress of Rome.”

Ever since the year 358, every August 5th  is celebrated with a Mass and the traditional “snowfall” made from white rose petals. The liturgical feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major is celebrated each year on the august 5th to commemorate the miraculous snowfall. At the conclusion of the Mass, the snow of white rose petals falls from the dome of the Chapel of Our Lady.

Rome, The Piazza and Church of Santa Maria Mag...

Rome, The Piazza and Church of Santa Maria Maggiore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are beautiful mosaics representing the “Miracle of St. Mary of the Snow” in the portico. A precious (bronze, marble and lapis-lazuli) relief by Stefano Maderno in Cappella Paolina portrays the pope drawing the plan of S. Maria Maggiore on the snow which had fallen on the top of the Esquiline hill. Although snow usually doesn’t occur in Rome in August, hail-storms are not unlikely to occur. The miraculous “Legend of the Snow”  is re-enacted every year at the Basilica on August 5th to commemorate the feast day of Our Lady of the Snow as white rose petals fall from the dome of the basilica.

Here’s a virtual tour of the basilica http://www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/sm_maggiore/vr_tour/index-it.html

Under the altar is a crypt housing the remains of St. Matthais, who was the Apostle that was chosen to replace the vacancy left by Judas Iscariot.  In front of the confessio that houses part of Christ’s manger is a kneeling statue of Pope Pius IX. The tombs of Popes Pius V, Sixtus V, Paul V, Cardinal Rodriquez (1299) and Clement VIII are in this basilica.  The 1740 Baldacchino was built by Ferdinando Fuga.

The church has had many names over the years: Santa Maria della Neve (English: St. Mary of the Snow), then Santa Maria Liberiana after Pope Liberius. After the basilica obtained a relic of the Holy Crib it was called Santa Maria Del Presepe (St. Mary of the Crib). It was finally named Santa Maria Maggiore (St. Mary Major) because it is the largest of the 26 churches in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

The church has a wide central nave separated by 40 columns;  36 are made from bianco greco marble and four are granite columns. There are mosaics on each side of the nave from 430-431 during the papacy of Sixtus III. Above the mosaics and between the windows, there are a series of frescoes from 1593 representing scenes from the life of the Virgin. The gilded gold coffered ceiling was begun by Giuliano da Sangallo in the middle of the 14oos.

Santa Maria Maggiore ceiling

The Marian column that graces the front of the basilica is crowned with a bronze statue of the Virgin known as the Salus Populi Romani (The Salvation of the Roman People). It is from Constantine’s Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine and was erected in 1614 according to the design by Carlo Maderno. It has a fountain at the base with eagles and dragons. The column was erected as a token of gratitude for the miraculous remission of the plague during the Baroque era.

As a papal basilica, Santa Maria Maggiore is often used by the pope when he presides over the annual Feast of the Assumption of Mary on August 15th each year.

Pope Paul V put Carlo Maderno in charge of relocating a column in front of the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore; the surviving 46 foot high column of Basilica di Massenzio. At the time this building was known as Tempio della Pace and in the long inscription the pope explained that the column was dedicated to the Virgin Mary because ” ex cuius visceribus princeps verae pacis genitus est donum dedit” (the Prince who gives true peace came from her womb). For this reason the column is also known as Colonna della Pace. The column and the small fountain in front of it are decorated with the eagles and dragons of the pope.

Marian Column in front of Santa Maria Maggiori

Santa Maria Maggiori in Rome Italy

In papal Rome, the basilica became one of the fulcrums of the urban plan of Sixtus V.  The other three papal or major basilicas in Rome are St. John Lateran, St. Peter and St. Paul outside the Walls.

The construction of Santa Maria Maggiore started in 420 under Pope Celestine I but the majority of the basilica was built under Pope Sixtus III (432-440) after the Council of Ephesus. The inscription on the triumphal arch reads: “Sixtus Episcopus plebi Dei” (Sixtus the bishop to the people of God).  Pope Sixtus III built the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore on the summit of Esquiline Hill.

The travertine facade is flanked by twin buildings with five entrance doors into the Basilica. The one on the left is the Holy Door.

Santa Maria Maggiore Porta Santa

The Holy Door (Porta Santa) is opened only when a Holy Year is announced. The doors to the left of the Holy Door lead to the loggia with the mosaic decorations of the old facade.

Here’s a virtual tour of the Loggia http://www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/sm_maggiore/vr_tour/Media/VR/St_Mary_Loggia/index.html

Arrangements must be made in advance to view the georgeous mosaics by Filippo Rusuti that were created toward the end of the 13th century.

In the Borghese Chapel, the basilica currently houses the oldest Marian image in Rome called the Salus Populi Romani (Salvation of the Roman People ). For centuries, the people of Rome have prayed to this icon in times of famine, war and national crisis.

It was painted by Saint Luke the Evangelist using the wooden table of the Holy Family in Nazareth. It is currently enshrined in the Santa Borghese Chapel of the basilica surrounded by five gilded bronze angels designed by Camillo Mariani. Here’s a virtual tour of the Borghese Chapel with the treasured icon http://www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/sm_maggiore/vr_tour/Media/VR/St_Mary_Borghese_Chapel/index.html .

The icon was placed in the chapel in 1613. The crowns were added to the icon by Pius XII in 1953. Radiocarbon dating establishes the age of the icon to be approximately 2,000 years old.

After the Crucifixion, Christ’s mother “Our Lady” moved to the home of St. John. She took a few of her personal belongings with her including a table built by the Redeemer in the workshop of St. Joseph. When the residents of Jerusalem asked St. Luke to paint a portrait of the Mother of God, he did it on top of this table. St. Luke listened carefully as the Mother of Jesus spoke of the life of her son, facts which the Evangelist later recorded in his Gospel. Legend also tells us that the painting remained in and around Jerusalem until it was discovered by St. Helena in the fourth century. Together with other sacred relics, the painting was transported to Constantinople where her son, Emperor Constantine the Great, erected a church for its enthronement.

Santa Maria Maggiore Borghese Chapel

The relief above the altar in the Borghese Chapel depicts Pope Liberius marking off the dimensions of his basilica in the newly-fallen snow. The relief was made by Stefano Maderno in 1612.

The basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore has the tallest bell tower in Rome at 240 feet. The two twin cupolas are a characteristic element of the Rome’s domed landscape.

The basilica is loaded with coveted mosaics; there are 36 panels in the nave and the mosaics of the triumphal arch date back to the 5th century. The “Coronation of the Virgin” mosaics in the apse were finished in 1295 and are signed by the Franciscan friar Jacopo Torriti. The coveted mosaics depict scenes of the Virgin and Christ, as well as scenes from the Old Testament and Egyptians Drowning in the Red Sea.

The lovely rear facade of the basilica was designed by Carl Rainaldi (1673) and it reflects Baroque architecture. Santa Maria Maggiore is the only Roman basilica that retained the core of its original structure despite several additional construction projects and damage from the earthquake of 1348.

Santa Maria Maggiore stained glass window

Pope Pius IX

When the Avignon papacy formally ended and the Papacy returned to Rome, the Basilica became a temporary Palace of the Popes due to the deterioration of the Lateran Palace. The papal residence was later moved to the Palace of the Vatican in what is now Vatican City.

The basilica houses the tombs of many popes. The Capella Sistina was built for Pope Sixtus V and houses his tomb.  The altar in the Chapel’s center has a beautiful ciborium from 1590 composed of four bronze angels holding a tempietto. Pope Paul V is buried in the Borghese Chapel with the “Salus Populi Romani” icon of the Virgin.

In front of the main altar there is a beautiful statue of Pope Pius IX by Ignazio Iacometi. The pope is kneeling in contemplative prayer while gazing at the relic of Christ’s manger from Bethlehem.

Sacra Culla:The relics of Christ’s manger from Bethlehem

Pius IX in Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome Italy

Clement IX

The relic of Christ’s manger is located in front of the main altar in the confession in a gold and silver reliquary designed by Valadier in 1802. The relic came to Rome when Saint Jerome’s body was brought to the church from Bethlehem. The relic is in front of Pius IX kneeling in Prayer.

The canopied main papal altar resembles Bernini’s Baldachinno in Saint Peter’s Basilica. It was designed by Fuga who used four porphyry columns. The columns are encircled with bronze palm branches moving in an upward direction that were added by Giuseppe Valadier in 1823. The Corinthian capitals with Pope Benedict XIV’s  coat of arms on the base of the columns.

Here’s a virtual tour of the altar showing the Baldachinno and the passageway to the relic of the crib http://www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/sm_maggiore/vr_tour/Media/VR/St_Mary_Nave1/index.html

The monument of Clement IX is by C. Painaldi. The baroque statue of the pontiff was done by Domenico Guidi with “Charity” on the left by Ercole Ferrata and “Faith” on the right by Cosimo Fancelli. The pope is actually buried in front of the confessional.


Pope Clement’s Monument Papal Altar of Santa Maria Maggiore

I love the Baptismal Chapel with the beautiful font. Here’s a virtual tour of the Baptistery http://www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/sm_maggiore/vr_tour/Media/VR/St_Mary_Baptistery/index.html

Bernini’s Saint Cajetan holding the Holy Child resides in this church.  Near the papal altar there is an inscription on the marble step that reads: “Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who brought honor and art to the city, here humbly lies.”  Bernini’s father Pietro is also buried here.

Bernini’s Grave

The gilded gold of the coffered ceiling of the Basilica was presented by the soverieigns of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella from the gold mines of Latin America. There’s an interesting musuem under the church. It’s loaded with sacred artifacts and objects. I love the presepio.

Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Italy Travel Guides. To learn more about Rome visit www.vino-con-vista.com

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The Church and Crypts of Santa Maria della Concezione on the Via Venato in Rome

The remains of 4,000 friars adorn the ossuary ...

The remains of 4,000 friars adorn the ossuary of the Santa Maria della Concezione (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cardinal Antonio Barberini (1607 - 1671)

Cardinal Antonio Barberini (1607 – 1671) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Santa Maria della Concezione is dedicated to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and it is located on the swanky Via Venato.  It is commonly referred to as I Cappuccini, the church of the Capuchin Friars; which is a branch of the Franciscan Order.

Antonio Barberini (1607-1671)

Antonio Barberini (1607-1671) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The church was built in 1626 by Cardinal Antonio Barberini. He was Pope Urban VIII‘s younger brother.  Cardinal Barberini was a Capuchin friar.  He is buried is a simple grave under the altar where there is a tombstone with the inscription in Latin, “Here lies dust, ashes, nothing.”

Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini 5

Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini 5 (Photo credit: Johnny Söderberg)

The architects were Antonio Casoni and Michele da Bergamo, a Capuchin Friar. The church has a double set of stairs leading up to the church and a very simple facade.

English: Tomb of Saint Felix of Cantalice, in ...

English: Tomb of Saint Felix of Cantalice, in Santa Maria della Concezione, at Rome. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the Capuchins moved from their convent near the Quirinal to this location, they brought the bones of about 4000 of their friars. The bones were placed in a cemetery under the chapels on the right side of the church. They arranged the bones in a variety of patterns on the walls and ceilings. Some of the skeletons are intact and draped with Capuchin robes. Two of the chapels have soil from the Holy Land. A plaque in one of the chapels reads, in three languages, “You are what we once were; you will be what we now are.”

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Guido Reni's archangel Michael (in the Capuchi...

Guido Reni’s archangel Michael (in the Capuchin church of Santa Maria della Concezione, Rome) tramples Satan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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The vault has Liborio Coccetti’s fresco of the “Assumption.” The first chapel on the right has a gorgeous altarpiece of St. Michael the Archangel (1635) by Guido Reni and Gerrit van Honthorst‘s “Mocking of Christ.” The second chapel has a Transfiguration by Mario Balassi, and a Nativity (c. 1632) by Lanfranco.

The third chapel has a Saint Francis in Ecstasy by Domenichino. The fourth chapel houses a Prayer in the Gesthemane (c. 1632) by Baccio Ciarpi. In the fifth chapel is a Saint Anthony Raises a Dead Man to Life by Sacchi.

In the pavement, in front of the presbytery, is the tombstone of the churches founder, Cardinal Barberini. The Latin inscriptions says: “Here lie dust, ashes and nothing.”

Cardinal Antonio Barberini (1607-1671)

Cardinal Antonio Barberini (1607-1671) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Travel Guides @ www.vino-con-vista.com

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Alghero’s Enchanting Church of Saint Francis in Sardinia


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St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231) adoring the C...

St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231) adoring the Christ Child (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Alghero‘s atmospheric Old Town has some enchanting churches including the restored 14th century Chiesa di San Francesco. This church complex includes a convent and cloister that was originally built in the 1300s.

The church of Saint Francis blends Romanesque, Catalan-Gothic, late Renaissance and Baroque styles.

The tranquil two-tiered cloister is the oldest part of the complex and it is located in the heart of the main shopping district on Via Carlo Alberto. The lovely arched cloister is a venue for summer concerts.

Cloister of St. Francis

The cloister leads to the small chapel at the base of the tower. There are some interesting murals inside the portico of the cloister.

The left aisle leads to the sacristy that is decorated with antique furniture and wooden statues. The sacristy leads to the  cloister that has two tiers of round arches. The higher order of arches in the cloister were added in the 18th century. The lower level arches supported by an alternating columns and octagonal pillars were original.

The church was re-built in 1598 after a collapse in 1593. It has a beautiful vault in the presbytery with some magnificent Baroque  altars that resemble those found in St. Anthony of Padua.

The altar is dominated by statues of the Virgin Mary among the saints Francis of Assisi and Anthony of Padua in 18th century polychrome marble by the sculptor Giovanni Battista Franco.

The Altar of the Church of Saint Francis

On one of the pillars on the left has a 17th century wooden sculpture of “Christ at the Column”. It is carried in procession during Holy Week .

Christ at the Column

The sandstone facade has a portal with an architrave that is decorated with the Franciscan coat of arms surrounded by angels bearing the Franciscans of the Passion. There is a small rose window surmounted by an oculus above the ornate door.

Facade of the Church of St. Francis

There are some magnificent chapels like the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament  built in the eighteenth century Baroque style.

English: Giorgione: Madonna and Child with St ...

English: Giorgione: Madonna and Child with St Anthony of Padua and St Roch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Italy Trvel Guides @ www.vino-con-vista.com

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Alghero’s Amazing Church of San Michele in Sardinia

Dome of San Michele, Alghero/Italy.

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English: 16th century catalan city walls, Algh...

English: 16th century catalan city walls, Alghero, Sardinia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love Alghero Sardinia. There are so many interesting churches.

The church of San Michele is a Baroque church in Alghero on the northwest coral coast of Sardinia located on Via Carlo Alberto in Old Town. The Jesuit church of San Michele was built in the second half of the 17th century by the Ligurian master builder Domenico Spotorno who also worked on the Baroque rebuilding of the Cagliari and Ales cathedrals.

Facade of San Michele

The project was drawn up by the architect Domenico Spotorno. He was a native of Savona. He also designed the Cathedral of Ales and the reconstruction of the the cathedral in Cagliari .

It is dedicated to the city’s patron saint. The majestic dome is covered with colorful tiles created and designed by Antonio Simon Mossa and Filippo Figari in the mid-twentieth century. It was lovingly restored in 2007.

The Annunciation

The dome of the Church of San Michele

In 1503, this church became the cathedral pro tempore of the Diocese of Alghero while the actual cathedral was being completed, which is  the cathedral of Santa Maria.

The simple facade of the building is made of  sandstone.  Above the wooden door, wrapped in a frame of trachyte , two marble statues representing the Annunciation, and a little higher up, a relief that symbolizes the Holy Spirit.

The interior of the church has a nave with a barrel vault and it is divided by arches resting on Corinthian columns.

Altar of San Michele

Archangel Michael has a significant presence in the church. His painting dominates the The Baroque high altar with an elaborate i8th century Spanish crucifix. His large wooden statue depicts him defeating a chained Satan under his feet. You can also find Michael in the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art a few blocks away.

Michael the Archangel

One of the chapels is dedicated to Our “Lady of the Arrow” with a large painting from 1652 hanging directly over a small elaborate niche with the statue of the Virgin of Valverde. The Shrine of Our Lady of Valverde is a few miles from the city and is the site of religious pilgrimages with momumental altarpieces by Genoese artists.

Virgin of Valverde

There are many lovely chapels in the church. The chapel in the left arm of the transept is dedicated to  St. Ignatius of Loyola. In the right arm of the transept there is a chapel, dedicated to St. Francis Xavier, one of the his early companions. There is a chapel with a painting that represents a “vision” of St. Teresa of Avila. One of the chapels on the left is dedicated to Immaculate Mary with scenes from the life of Madonna.

coat of arms of Sardinia Region.

coat of arms of Sardinia Region. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Italy Travel Guides available @ www.vino-con-vista.com

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The Beautiful Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome Italy

Façade with obelisk, Santa Maria sopra Minerva...

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Piazza della Minerva with Bernini’s Elephant

The Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva was built above the ruins of a temple to honor the goddess Minerva that was built by Gnaeus Pompey the Great around 50 B.C. to honor his Asian victories.  The basilica is located in Piazza della Minerva. On the right side of the facade of the basilica look for inscriptions that mark the flooding of the Tiber River between 1422 and 1870 because this is the lowest point in Rome and was subject to frequent flooding. Some of the Tiber flood waters rose to as high as 65 feet.

Interior of the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra ...

Interior of the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, the only Gothic church in Rome. The church houses the tomb of St. Catherine of Siena. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Dominicans began construction on the gothic church in 1280 and used Santa Maria Novella in Florence as their model. Above the main doorway’s triangular pediment is the coat of arms of the Dominican Pope St. Pius V (1566-1572)

To the right of the neo-medieval church facade, admire the Palazzo Fonseca which is now the luxurious Grand Hotel Minerva. Stop in for a lovely Vino con Vista.

Lobby of the Grand Hotel Minerva

Grand Hotel Minerva in Rome ItalyInterior of the Grand Hotel Minerva in Rome Italy

Gian Lorenzo Bernini‘s  famous smiling elephant called “Pulcino della Minerva” supports one of Rome’s smallest Egyptian obelisks that was escavated in the Domenican cloister and brought to Rome by Diocletian during his reign from 284-305. The Latin inscription at the base of the monument that was commissioned by Pope Alexander VII says “A strong mind is needed to support solid knowledge.”
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Detail of the vault (one of the 4 sibyls : Sib...

Detail of the vault (one of the 4 sibyls : Sibyl of Delphi) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bernini also has some interesting works inside the basilica including the funeral monument of Maria Raggi constructed in 1643. Before San Giovani dei Fiorentini was built, Minerva was the church of the Florentine nation and houses tombs of nobles and citizens from Florence including Pope Urban VII. Fra Angelico and Pope Paul IV. The tombs of two Medici popes Leo X and Clement VII are located in the choir area behind the altar.
Altar in Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome, Italy.

Altar in Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome, Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bernini’s monument to Maria Raggi


One of the fascinating aspects of sightseeing in Rome is visiting the churches to view an amazing spectrum of art.
There are over 900 churches in Rome Italy and they are the frequented by religious pilgrims and locals. These amazing churches are repositories of the relics of martyrs that are venerated within as well as priceless artistic treasures. The Gothic Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is located in Piazza della Minerva near the Pantheon.

Rear view of the Pantheon from Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome Italy

Michelangelo's Christ the Redeemer in the Basi...

Look for the trusty map inside the church to help you identify the key artwork in the basilica. In front of the altar you will find a staue of St. John the Baptist by Giuseppe Obici (1858) on the right and Michelangelo’s “Risen Christ the Redeemer” on the Left.

Churches in Rome Italy

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Facade of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

Michelangelo’s statue of  “Christ the Risen Redeemer” was started in 1519 and shipped unfinished from Florence in 1521. The bronze draping was added later.Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome

Saint Catherine of Siena is also buried in the Basilica beneath the main altar; although her head is in the church of San Domenico in Siena. The monument was created by Isaia da Pisa in 1430. In 1939, Saint Catherine and Saint Francis of Assisi were proclaimed principal patrons of Italy and she was also proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1970.

The Chapel of Saint Dominic has a painting byPaolo de Matteis and Benedict XIII’s tomb is protected by a lovely statue of “Purity” by Pieto Brracci on the right side of the ornate tomb.

Carafa chapel, Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Ro...

Visit the Carafa Chapel of Saint Thomas Aquinas with beautiful frescoes by Filippino Lippi. I love the scene that depicts St. Thomas presenting Cardinal Carafa to the Blessed Virgin. The relics of St. Thomas were kept in this chapel until 1511, when they were moved to Naples.

In the Chapel dedicated to the Annunciation you can admire the “Annunciation” painting by Antoniazzo Romano. The Virgin is shown giving dowries to young girls who are kneeling with Cardinal Juan de Torquemada. The cardinal is buried nearby.

Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Travel Guides about Italy. To learn more about Rome visit www.vino-con-vista.com

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