St. Ignazio di Loyola

Piazza St. Ignazio of LoyolaThe Square of St. Ignatius of Loyola (1727, Filippo Raguzzini) is our favorite square. A Barocco-happening in Rome has the stylish whimsicality of a "Commedia dell'Arte" stage set, perhaps influenced by Palladio's famous Teatro Olimpico at Vicenza where "trompe l'oeil" perspective is used to give depth to the backdrop.

This whole piazza, enclosed by five small buildings, was commissioned by the Jesuits as a jewel-like setting for their church, built 100 years earlier in pure Baroque style.

The piazza is in a style midway between Baroque and Rococo which architecture historians call "Barocchetto Romano".

Other example is the Spanish Steps. They use purely abstract curvilinear shapes to give a feeling of limitless space in a relatively cramped situation. They give some light relief in a city where the grand palaces tend to be classic and heavy.

Here Raguzzini's facades follow the curves of three intersecting oval shapes, creating a series of concave and convex surfaces that delight the eye with their elegant movement.

Church of St. Ignatius of LoyolaChurch of St. Ignatius of Loyola. (1626-50, Father Orazio Grassi). Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, nephew of Pope Gregory XV (1621-23) built this Baroque beauty to honor the founder of the Society of Jesus whom his uncle had canonized.

The design follows that of the nearby Chiesa del Gesù, mother-church of the Society, and shows the influence of Algardi, Domenichini and Maderno.

But the final architect, Grassi, was a Jesuit priest and so was the man responsible for the church's unforgettable ceiling paintings, Father Andrea Pozzo. The most famous of these is the false perspective of what appears to be a soaring dome over the crossing, which Pozzo painted to replace the cupola Grassi designed before Ludovisi's money ran out.

Be sure to stand on the disk halfway up the nave to get the full force of these "trompe l'oeil" perspectives that show in glorious 3-D the triumphs of St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556) - apparently bursting into the sky.

Our favorite: free concerts of religious music are often held here during religious festivities and at 9 pm Sunday evenings.

Piazza di Sant'Ignazio di Loyola. Tel. 06 6794406 (Map H 5)