Rome is all about churches…so this morning I went to visit Sant’Ignazio to see the famous trompe l’oeil ceiling painted by Andrea del Pozzo. San’t Ignazio was built in the mid-17th century to glorify Ignacio de Loyola, founder of the Company of Jesus in 1534. He was made a saint in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV, himself a former pupil of the Jesuit college in Rome, the Collegio Romano. By then, the Company who took a major part in the catholic Counter-Reform, was growing fast and needed a larger church to accommodate its followers. The church was commissioned by Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, from the Roman aristocratic family of the same name, and is still part of the Collegio Romano. Sant’ Ignazio is large, pompous and very baroque in spirit, and the atmosphere inside it is cold and formal. It was made to impress visitors, not to move them.
The inside of the church was decorated by Andrea del Pozzo, a baroque painter and architecte, who was a jesuist brother himself. Pozzo joined the Company in 1665 at the age of 23 while he was in Milan to train as a painter. He became famous all over northern Italy for his trompe-l’oeil paintings, and consequently wrote a treatise on prospective in painting and architecture. He already had a strong reputation when he was called to Rome to work on Sant’ Ignazio ceiling. There he created his famous dome painted on a flat canvas. The prospective created is such that viewers have the impression of seeing a real cupola.
He also painted the vault of the church, representing the influence Ignazio had in the world, his aura shining over the four continents (as was known then). The trompe-l’oeil effect is again impressive, with the height created by painted pilasters on the vault. Pozzo also worked on the main Jesuit church in Rome, la chiesa del Gesù a few streets away, where he decorated Ignazio’s rooms (among art scholars, they are known to be his masterpiece—we’ll visit them next…). He also painted the refectory in the Sacre Cuore convent in the church of Trinità dei Monti. He then moved to Vienna where amongst other, he decorated the Jesuit church and died there in 1709.