Tag Archives: Mary (mother of Jesus)

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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Alghero’s Spectacular Vino con Vista Sea-Caves in Neptune’s Grotto

Grotta di Nettuno, Sardinien

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For an amazing day trip from Alghero‘s Old Town, visit the spectacular sea-caves  of Neptune’s Grotto located at the promontory of Capo Caccia.  The geological wonder is located directly under the lighthouse at sea-level. This fascinating natural jewel in Sardinia‘s Mediterranean basin attracts over 150,000 visitors per year.

These marine caves are located to the west of the town of Alghero and can be reached by boat or by a steep set of stairs. The scenic boat trip on the way to the caves  includes the tranquil blue bay of Porto Conte and the spectacular vertical cliffs at Capo Caccia. The cave was once a habitat for the Mediterranean Monk Seal, which has become extinct in the area.

The caves are accessible from the sea with the “Linea Grotto” boat tour that leaves the Port of Alghero every day (weather permitting). The other option is on foot via the “Escala del Cabirol” (Billy Goat Stairs). This dramatic set of about 660 steps is cut into the side of the cliff. I have personally traveled both ways and believe me,  I definitely prefer the boat trip from the harbor of Alghero!

This enchanting fairy-tale underworld sea-level cave complex was discovered by fishermen in the 18th century. Dramatic lighting enhances the magical stalactites (on the ceiling) and stalagmites.

These dramatic formations create impressive shapes that resemble organ pipes and cathedral columns.


The tour begins at the great room holding the transparent waters of the Lago Lamarmora (Lake Lamarmora). This is one of the largest saltwater lakes in all of Europe.

Admire the Acquasantiera (The Baptismal Font). This monumental stalagmite collects rain-water and serves as a vessel for birds that nest in the Capo Caccia region.

The tour moves into the Sala delle Rovine (Room of Ruins) and then proceeds to the Majestic Reggia with impressive columns.

One of the distinctive stalagmite formations is known as the Albero di Natale (Christmas Tree). You can view the Spiaggia dei Ciottolini (Pebble Beach) and then travel to the Sala Smith (Smith Room). In this room, the Grande Organo (Great Organ) has the largest column in the entire grotto. This room was named after the English captain who  was one of the first people to explore the grotto in the early 1800’s.

Beyond the “Great Organ” explore the columns that adorn the Sala delle Trine e dei Merletti (The Lace Room). The tour ends in the Tribuna della Musica (The Music Gallery) with a nice view of Lamarmora Lake

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

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Who built Rome’s Historic Pantheon?

The Pantheon, a landmark of the Campus Martius...
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English: Close-up of the ceiling of the Panthe...

English: Close-up of the ceiling of the Pantheon in Rome (Italy) highlighted by a sunbeam. Nederlands: Close-up van het plafond van het Pantheon in Rome (Italië) opgelicht door een zonnestraal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: The Pantheon in Rome.

English: The Pantheon in Rome. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Painting by Giovanni Paolo Pannini of the Pant...

Painting by Giovanni Paolo Pannini of the Pantheon in Rome, Italy, after its conversion to a church. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pantheon Rome #2

Pantheon Rome #2 (Photo credit: Stoic Meditation)

East side of the Pantheon in Rome.

East side of the Pantheon in Rome. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: The Pantheon in Rome, Italy

English: The Pantheon in Rome, Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Plan of the first ( Red ) (by Marcus Vipsanius...

Plan of the first ( Red ) (by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa) and of the third (Black) (by Hadrian) Pantheon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

complete cupola of Pantheon Rome

complete cupola of Pantheon Rome (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Pantheon in Rome has occupied its present location for nearly 2000 years. It was originally designed in 27 B.C. as a pagan temple for all twelve Roman deities; supernatural and immortal beings. The deities were Apollo, Ceres, Diana, Juno, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Minerva, Neptune, Venus, Vesta and Vulcan.

Pantheon - Rome (LOC)

Pantheon – Rome (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

Русский: Внутреннее убранство Пантеона

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The massive original doors are still used for entry into the Basilica.

 Pantheon Doors in Rome Italy

English: Pantheon (temple to all the gods of a...

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The structure is as wide as it is tall (140 x 140 feet).  The 30 foot wide oculus in the roof is the only source of light and was designed to allow the smoke from the burning of sacrificed animals to escape. The hemispherical dome was made from un-reinforced concrete and is still the largest dome in the world of its type.

Pantheon Oculus in Rome Italy

Circular exterior view of the side of the Pantheon

The coffers for the concrete dome were poured in molds. Eight massive granite columns support the triangular tympanon. 

Agrippa was the son-in-law of Emperor Augustus. Agrippa’s name is still inscribed in the trabeation above the portico in Latin and bears the inscription “Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, Consul for the third time built this.”

Marcus Agrippa in Rome Italy

Pantheon Restoration

Agrippa did not really build the Pantheon; he built an earlier temple on this site in 27 B.C. that was ravaged by a fire. The Pantheon was built in 125 AD during the reign of Emperor Hadrian. 

Pope Boniface IV

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The Pantheon was given to Pope Boniface IV in 609 and he converted it into a church and named it Santa Maria ad Martyres. Pope Boniface had 28 carloads of martyrs’ bones brought here from various cemeteries in Rome. It became the first pagan temple to be consecrated as a church.

English: An image of the tomb of Umberto I in ...

English: An image of the tomb of Umberto I in the Pantheon, in Rome, Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Saint Mary and the Martyrs Church in Rome

Saint Mary and the Martyrs houses the mortal remains of Raphael in an ancient marble sarcophagus. Raphael died in 1520.  The bust of Raphael located in the niche left of the aedicule and was completed in 1833 by Giueseppe Fabris.

The tomb of the fist king of Italy, King Victor Emanuele II (1820-1878), has a statue of St. Ann and the Virgin in the aedicule to the left of the tomb by Lorenzo Ottoni.

English: Pantheon, Rome, Raphael's tomb.

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Tomb of King VIctor Emanuele II in Rome ItalyTomb of Raphael at the Pantheon in Rome Italy

Bronze bust of Raphael on top of the artist's ...

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Most of the marble was recycled for St. Peter’s Basilica. In 1625, Pope Urban VIII (Barberini) removed the bronze from the beams of the portico to make 80 cannons for Castel Sant’Angelo and the four spiral columns of Bernini’s Baldachinno in St. Peter’s Basilica. The colossal bronze doors are original. Today we might consider that a “green” ecologically friendly move but the Roman’s say, “Whatever the barbarians didn’t do, the Barberini did.” The tomb of Victor Emanuele II was then created from bronze that was recast from the Castel Sant’Angelo’s cannons at the turn of the 20th century.

Interior view of the Pantheon in Rome Italy



The general area around the Pantheon is the financial and political hub of the city and includes the stock exchange and Parliament. I think the Cafe Agrippa is a great place for a “Vino con Vista”!

Cafe Agrippa at the Pantheon in Rome

The Piazza della Rotunda is the name of the square in front of the Pantheon. One of Rome’s prized Egyptian obelisks occupies the center of the square. Did you know that you will never get lost in Rome if you follow the obelisks? They  are like a Roman GPS system that mark important landmarks in Rome.

Piazza della Rotunda obelisk in Rome Italy in front of the Pantheon


Fountain in the Piazza della Rotunda in front of the Pantheon in Rome

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

To learn more about Rome visit www.vino-con-vista.com

Buon Viaggio–

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

This is a rare photo of the Salus Populi Roman...

Image via Wikipedia

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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