Church of the Gesù
Mother Church of the Jesuits throughout the world. Finished in 1584. Model for the Baroque style in church architecture. It sits on the same site of an older church where Saint Ignatius of Loyola prayed before an image of Our Lady, still preserved in this newer church. The cell (room) of Saint Ignatius still exists in the Jesuit residence to the right of the church and can be visited by the public.
The Baroque style, favored by the Jesuits (and others) during the Counter Reformation from around the year 1550 and after, tried to inspire people, and keep them Catholic, by filling their eyes and hearts with external beauty, reminding them of the splendor of God.
It is called the Gesù (Jesus, in Italian) but the more formal name is "The Church of the Most Holy Name of Jesus." Over the high altar is the monogram of the Holy Name - IHS.
Tomb of Saint Ignatius of Loyola
Religion Defeats Hatred and Heresy
Notice the little image on the bottom left, tearing out pages from the writings of Zwingli!
Side Altar with the Arm Bone of Saint Francis Xavier
Pulpit of a "Preaching Church"
Part of the Counter Reformation, or the Church's efforts to stem the tide of Protestantism and win souls back to the Church, was a renewed emphasis on preaching. Begun several centuries earlier by the Dominicans and Franciscans, pulpits were placed in a prominent part of the church and the naves of churches were freed from columns that would block the view of the pulpit. This way, preachers could be seen and heard more easily by the congregation. These churches, were sermons were emphasized, were called "preaching churches" and the Gesù was one of them.
Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola
Again, a richly ornate Baroque church. This one is dedicated to the founder of the Jesuits, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, though his body is buried in the Gesù. The impetus for the building of this church was the canonization of Saint Ignatius in 1622 but it took many years before the church was open for public worship. The Jesuit Roman College was very near and it had the students in mind when it was being built.
Above the high altar are the words Jesus spoke to Ignatius while he was on his way to Rome to offer his services, and that of his first companions, to the Pope. While in prayer, the Lord appeared to Ignatius holding his cross and told him, "I will be favorable to you in Rome." Sure enough, the Pope received the first Jesuits with approval and put them to work immediately.
The Illusion of the Dome
At a certain spot on the floor of the church, you look up and think you see a dome. The dome does not exist. The illusion was simply painted on the ceiling. That is - if you look from this spot marked on the floor :
But if you move to any other part of the church and look up, the illusion becomes apparent :
Several Jesuit saints!
Tomb of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga
....and Saint Robert Bellarmine
...and Saint John Berchmans