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Church of Saint'Andrea della Valle

Church of SANT'ANDREA della VALLE
Church of Saint'Andrea della Valle

This church, which adjoins the relics of the theatre of Pompey, is one of the best specimens of the confirmed Italian style in Rome. The designs were furnished by Olivieri in 1591, but finally carried out by Carlo Maderno, the facade being a later addition of Carlo Rainaldi. The plan of this church, together with its dimensions, are similar to that of the Oratory at Brompton built about thirty years ago from the designs of the late Mr H. A. Gribble.
It is a most noble and attractive building, not only from its agreeable proportions, but also from the wealth of its decorative treatment, where the skill and ability of the most distinguished architects and artists extant at the time were displayed. The fitting up of the first chapel on the right was entrusted to Fontana, and that adjoining it to Michael Angelo. The cupola is one of the most beautiful in Rome and springs from a base similar to that of Sant' Ignazio and the Gesu, being built on an irregular octagon with the oblique sides filled up solid.
The chapels adjoining the dome piers are contracted, an expedient no doubt to give strength to the piers supporting the cupola.
The order of Sant' Andrea della Valle is an admixture of the Corinthian and the Composite, and the plan includes a three-bayed nave with short transepts and an eastern limb terminating in an apse. The wall of the latter is divided into three very large compartments enriched with as many paintings by il Calebrese representing scenes from the martyrdom of St Andrew, viz., his crucifixion; reception of the crown of martyrdom from angels, and his burial. Between the nave arcade and the cupola, on either side of the church, is a low arch, above which are two of the Papal tombs removed from the ancient St Peter's. The tombs, those of Pius II. and Pius III., by two sculptors, pupils of Paolo Romano, are mentioned by Vasari in his life of that artist, and are examples of the breaking up into minute parts, story above story, of small reliefs and statuettes, by no means among the commendable characteristics of monumental art in the fifteenth century.
These tombs of two Popes, both of the Piccolomini family, were transferred to Sant' Andrea, because that church occupies the site of their forefathers' palace—not, indeed, their birthplace, both being of Siena.
Amore praiseworthy art-work of this period is the monument of Eugenius IV., with a dignified recumbent statue, and reliefs of saints on lateral pilasters, in a chapel, long desecrated, off the cloister of San Salvatore in Lauro. This is one of the few extant sculptures by Isaia da Pisa, a once admired artist, to whom posterity has been indeed unjust, seeing that his masterpiece, a relief of the " translation " of the body of Sta Monica from Ostia to Rome, in 1483, above the altar where those relics still lie at San Agostino, was deliberately taken to pieces, and its fragments sold to a stone-cutter in 1760.
Recurring to Sant' Andrea della Valle, we must observe the interior of the cupola, one of the most beautiful in Rome. It was painted by Lanfranco, and the work to which he devoted four years, after a long study of Correggio's cupola at Padua, is considered one of his most successful productions; indeed, the glory which he painted on the centre of the lantern was considered to form an epoch in art. At the four angles are the Evangelists, byDomenichino, to whom is likewise due the subject on the conch of the apse—the apotheosis of St Andrew. Of the Evangelists in the cupola, the St John is an admirable figure, powerfully coloured and beautiful in expression. Amidst the outcry against these frescoes Domenichino is said to have visited them some time after their execution, and to have said, "Non mi pare d'esser tanto cattivo." Lanzi, speaking of the Evangelists, says that, " after a hundred similar performances, they are still looked up to as models of art." Sant Ignazio Designed by Padre Oratio Grassi, and commenced in 1626, this church is one of the most important in Rome, and belongs to the order of Jesuits, having an internal length of 270 feet, with a nave 60 feet wide and 100 feet high.
It is very simple, the cross being formed by the nave and transepts. In each aisle are three chapels, with two additional ones on either side of the sanctuary, all crowned with a small cupola. The pilasters in the nave are of the Corinthian order, fluted, and rest on the floor, not on pedestals, an arrangement succeeding remarkably well in a church of a country where fixed benches and pews are practically unknown. The arches, which communicate with the chapels, spring from detached columns, and, if memory serves aright, there are only two solitary instances of this arrangement among the vast number of churches raised in Rome during the Revived Classical period. The usual custom is to make the arches spring from imposts, as in St Paul's Cathedral, but the architect of Sant Ignazio did not do as Wren did, and cut away his architraves to give room for the arch; but on the contrary he kept them below the necking of the capitals of the principal order. Some architectural critics regard this as unfortunate, for were the arch increased in height, the keystone could be so arranged as to seem to support the centre weight of the architrave. Sant Ignazio, though originally intended to be graced with a cupola, still remains without one. Pro tanto, the area is covered with a vault of the section of a watch glass—"saucer dome " is, I believe, the technical expression —upon which Andrea Pozzo painted a perspective view of the interior of a dome. This design and perspective drawing of the cupola is not the only relic in Sant Ignazio of the above-named artist's talent, as the high altar, and that in the left-hand transept, together with two others in the aisles, and also the decoration of the nave ceiling, are the fruits of his ability.