Church of Sant'Ignazio da Loyola

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The church of Sant'Ignazio di Loyola is the second Jesuit church in Rome and is a splendid Baroque building in the square of the same name. It is dedicated to St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuit Order. It was built in 1626 by Jesuit Orazio Grassi, and commissioned by Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi.
The artist who designed and managed the decoration of the church was a specialist in painting optical illusions, and marked the floor with the best points from which his works could be admired. His name was Fra Andrea Pozzo, the famous painter of trompe l'oeil frescoes. The first point, marked with a gilt disc, provides the best view of the vault, where Pozzo "built" another church above the real one, with columns towering upwards.
In the middle, St. Ignatius ascends to heaven, looked upon by the crucified Christ and four figures symbolising the continents known at that time. The painting is said to represent the history of the Jesuits in their conquest of the four continent. Not far away, there is another mark on the floor for the spot to view the dome which seems to rise from the ceiling. A few steps later we see that this is not a real dome, but a very successful artistic accomplishment.
The inhabitants of the neighbourhood are said to have asked for a dome not to be built since this would have blocked the sunlight. But Andrea Pozzo did not stop here: in the apse, he painted four false straight columns on a curved surface. With its imaginative virtuoso painting, the Church of Sant'Ignazio is one of the best representatives of the Baroque spirit, of that artistic current that tried to surprise onlookers with clever expedients. This is why Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi called Pozzo to decorate the church designed by Orazio Grassi to host the growing number of students in the Collegio Romano.
Next to the church we can find the main chapel and rooms of St. Louis Gonzaga, utilised for lodging Jesuit students. St. Louis lived there between 1587 and the year before his death. He is associated with a chapel, a sacristy with a crucifix and a very large recreation room for all the Jesuit students.


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