Photographer's Note

Il Gesu

The Chiesa Il Ges¨ (Church of the Ges¨), a 16th-century late Renaissance church in Rome, is the mother church of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits. Originally very austere, Il Ges¨'s interior was opulently decorated starting in the 17th century. Now its frescoes, sculptures and shrines make it one of the foremost examples of Roman Baroque art.

What to See


In 1571, Giacomo della Porta's design for the fašade of Il Ges¨ was accepted. The main architect, Vignola also died that year, and Porta was put in charge of finishing the church. Della Porta's fašade conveys a sense of harmony and seriousness that perfectly expressed the goal of the Counter-Reformation to assert the authority and majesty of the Catholic Church. The fašade is divided into an upper and a lower portion. The lower portion is wonderfully reminiscent of Palladian architecture, and its columns and pilasters quote the harmonious lines of ancient Greek and Roman temples. Set into the wall are two statues of St. Ignatius stamping out ignorant savages, not tremendously politically correct today. The upper portion is has graceful scroll-shaped buttresses on each side, which delight the eye and echo the theme of the Jesuits being learned scholars and teachers of the faith.

Frescoes by Baciccia

Truly the most extraordinary painting in the church, and perhaps in all of Rome after the Sistine Chapel, is the Triumph of the Holy Name of Jesus which adorns the nave vault. Giovanni Battista Gaulli, known as Baciccia, a gifted painter from Genoa, was supported by the famous sculptor Bernini and won the commission to paint the frescoes for Il Ges¨ when he was just 22. Eighteen years later, he unveiled the Triumph. Surrounded by a gilt coffered ceiling, the fresco depicts the loyal and pious ascending to join Jesus in heaven and the impious being cast down.

Baciccia achieved an incredible three-dimensional trompe l'oeuil with the help of his pupil, Antonio Raggi. Raggi fashioned foreshortened stucco and wooden figures that were affixed at the bottom of the painting, which Baciccia then painted so they appear to be part of the main fresco. The effect is uncanny. Fortunately, the church has placed a slanted mirror under the fresco so you won't develop a crick in your neck while gawking at this masterpiece.

Left Transept: Chapel of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Many churches have a transept that intersects the nave to create a footprint which forms the shape of a cross. Because of the need to fit the church into the tight space between existing houses, however, the left and right wings of the transept of Il Ges¨ are quite shallow. Still, the space has been put to good use on each side, especially the left, which houses the altar-tomb of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. The Jesuit artist Andrea Pozzo, himself a master of trompe l'oeuil frescoes, won the commission for creating the altar. Utilizing silver, gold, bronze, rare marbles, and minerals like malachite, lapis lazuli, and porphyry, Pozzo employed over 100 craftsmen to create one of the wonders of Roman Baroque art.

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Site Information

Names: Chiesa del Ges¨; Chiesa del Santissimo Nome di Ges¨ all'Argentina; Il Ges¨; Il Ges¨, Rome
City: Rome
State: Lazio
Country: Italy
Categories: Churches
Faiths: Christianity; Catholic; Jesuit
Feat: Famous Grave; Relics
Styles: Renaissance; Baroque
Dates: 1568-84
Status: active

Visitor and Contact Information

Address: Piazza del Gesu, Via degli Astalli, 16, Rome, Italy
Coordinates: 41.895912░ N, 12.479868░ E
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 7am-12:30pm, 4-7:45pm
Cost: Free

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Additional Photos by Csaba Witz (csabagaba) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 590 W: 167 N: 1409] (6638)
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