Chiesa del Gesù (church of the Gesù)

7:38 PM

It was almost sundown and outside the Pantheon, the crowd was taking a breather. I joined in with a scoop of gelato and tried to eavesdrop on conversations I could understand.  I was done with my Christian duties, having visited the Vatican and other places of worship around the eternal city. And with the gelato sliding its cold way down my throat, it was just too tempting to head back to my side of town and call it a day. At Termini, I could watch the new arrivals try to get their bearings or the locals rush home for supper. Better yet, I could make my way back to the hostel, go online or call Barcelona.

But as a child of the Jesuits, I knew I just had to go.

I opened my guidebook to the map of Centro Storico and tried to figure out how to get to Corso Vittorio Emanuele II.  At the intersection of this main road, Via del Plebiscito, and Via de Aracoelli, stands the most important Jesuit church in Rome. 

Built between 1551 and 1584 with the money donated by Cardinal Alessandro Fernese, the Chiesa del Gesu is a fine example of counter-reformation architecture. More importantly, Saint Ignatius de Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order, lived in this church from 1554 until his death in 1556. His remains lie in the Capella di Sant' Ignazio which is to the left of the altar. 

A partial view of the Gesu from Corso Vittorio Emanuele II 

I entered the church without any expectation. After seeing several churches in Rome, it felt like I was all "churched-out". But leave it to the Jesuits to still manage to surprise a soul.

Simply put, the interiors of the Gesu was gilded.

I was affronted by such blatant display of wealth. But having mainly stuck to gold and white, the church slowly appeared to me as simple in its grandness. Elegant even.


The gold and marble interior was designed by Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola, a pupil of Michelangelo.
The main altar of the Gesu seems relatively simple compared to the other parts of the church. 
These frescoes above the altar could certainly distract churchgoers. 
The church's golden dome makes heaven seem so impossible to reach. 
The Triumph of the Name of Jesus, Tionfo del Nome di Gesu, was done by Giovanni Bautista Gaulli (aka II Baciccia).
The church provided a mirror so people can admire the frescoes without hurting their necks. 
Angels seem to have a penchant for windows. 
The golden interior aglow with afternoon light. As if it needed further help. 

I found it odd that the pulpit was a bit far from the altar. 
These chairs were clearly there as extra seats but where was the crowd? 

I barely got a glimpse of the tomb of Saint Ignatius as it was late in the day. While staring at his tomb, a painting started to drop down to eventually cover it.  Evidently, the tomb closes a bit earlier than the church doors.

After saying a prayer of thanksgiving, I stepped out of the church and back to rush hour traffic as the bell signaled the hour.


Happy Feast Day of Saint Ignatius of Loyola!


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