Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo
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|Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo|
|Ecclesiastical or organizational status||Basilica|
|Architect(s)||Baccio Pontelli, Andrea Bregno, Gian Lorenzo Bernini|
|Architectural style||Renaissance, Baroque|
|Direction of façade||W|
The Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo is an Augustinian church in Rome, Italy. It stands on the north side of Piazza del Popolo, one of the most famous squares in the city. The church is hemmed in between Porta del Popolo (the ancient Porta Flaminia) and the Pincio hill. Porta Flaminia was one of the gates in the Aurelian Wall as well as the starting point of Via Flaminia, the most important route from the north. The church contains works by several famous artists for example Raphael, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Caravaggio, Alessandro Algardi, Pinturicchio, Andrea Bregno, Guillaume de Marcillat and Donato Bramante.
In 1099, a chapel was built by Pope Paschal II to Our Lady over the tomb of the Domitii Ahenobarbi. Tradition has it that the site was haunted by Nero's ghost or demons in the form of black crows; therefore the pope chopped down the walnut tree sheltering the crows and built a chapel in its place. The name del Popolo ("of the people") probably derives from its funding by the people of Rome, but some sources say it comes from the Latin word populus, meaning poplar and referring to a tree located nearby. The chapel was enlarged and became a church by will of Pope Gregory IX in 1235, and was given to the Augustinian friars, who still oversee it, in 1250.
Santa Maria del Popolo was reconstructed by Baccio Pontelli and Andrea Bregno in 1472-1477 on the orders of Pope Sixtus IV and was given to the congregation of Lombard friars in Rome. The result of the reconstruction was an early and excellent example of Italian Renaissance architecture. In 1655-60 the façade was modified by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who was asked by Pope Alexander VII to update the Renaissance church to a more modern Baroque style.
The apse was designed by Bramante. The oldest stained glass window in Rome can be found here, made by French artist Guillaume de Marcillat. Pinturicchio decorated the vault with frescoes, including the Coronation of the Virgin. The tombs of Cardinals Ascanio Sforza and Girolamo Basso della Rovere, both made by Andrea Sansovino, can also be found in the apse.
Della Rovere Chapel
The Della Rovere (or Nativity) Chapel is the first side chapel on the right aisle. It was built by Cardinal Domenico della Rovere from 1471 to 1484 after the reconstruction of the church by his relative, Pope Sixtus IV. The pictorial decoration is attributed to Pinturicchio and his school. The main altar-piece, The Adoration of the Child with St Jerome is an exquisite autograph work by Pinturicchio himself. The tomb of Cardinal Cristoforo della Rovere (died in 1487), a work by Andrea Bregno and Mino da Fiesole, was erected by his brother. On the right side the funeral monument of Giovanni de Castro (died 1506) is attributed to Francesco da Sangallo. The chapel is one of best preserved monuments of quattrocento art in Rome.
The Cybo Chapel was radically rebuilt by Cardinal Alderano Cybo (1613-1700) between 1682 and 1687 according to the plans of Carlo Fontana. For the beauty of its paintings, the preciousness of marble revetments covering its walls and the importance of the artists involved in its construction the chapel is regarded one of the most significant sacral monuments erected in Rome in the last quarter of the 17th century.
Basso Della Rovere Chapel
The Basso Della Rovere Chapel was built by Girolamo Basso della Rovere in 1471-84. The architecture is similar to the Chapel of the Nativity and the painted decoration is attributed to Pinturicchio and his workshop. The highlights of the chapel are the great fresco of the Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints Augustine, Francis, Anthony of Padua and a Holy Monk above the altar, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on the first wall and the illusionistic monochrome decoration of the pedestal with painted benches and martyrdom scenes. The original maiolica floor tiles from Deruta also survived.
The Costa Chapel follows the same plan as the Della Rovere chapels but it was furnished by Portuguese Cardinal Jorge da Costa who purchased it in 1488. The most important works of art are the paintings of the lunettes by the school of Pinturicchio depicting the four Fathers of the Church; the marble altar-piece by Gian Cristoforo Romano (c. 1505); and the funeral monument of Cardinal Costa by the school of Andrea Bregno. The bronz and marble funeral monument of Pietro Foscari from 1480 is preserved here.
The chapel was built by Giovanni Montemirabile in 1479 and it was transformed to the baptistery of the basilica in 1561. The most valuable works of art in the chapel are the edicules of the baptismal font and the holy oil. These marbles originate from the old main altar of the basilica by Andrea Bregno. The funeral monument of Cardinal Antoniotto Pallavicini on the left wall was also made by the Bregno workshop in 1507.
Banker Agostino Chigi commissioned Raphael to design and decorate a funerary chapel for him in 1513. The chapel is a treasure trove of Italian Renaissance and Baroque art and is considered among the most important monuments in the basilica. The dome of the centralized octagonal chapel is decorated with Raphael's mosaics, the Creation of the World. The statues of Jonah and Elijah were carved by Lorenzetto. The chapel was later completed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini for Fabio Chigi. His additions include the sculptures of Habakkuk and the Angel and Daniel and the Lion.
The chapel, which was dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, is one of the original 15th century hexagonal side chapels of the basilica but its inner decoration was changed during the later centuries. It has been the funerary chapel of the Mellini family for centuries and contains several funeral monuments among them the works of Alessandro Algardi and Pierre-Étienne Monnot. The frescos of the vault were created by Giovanni da San Giovanni in 1623-24.
The chapel of the Cybo family was dedicated to the Crucifixion. There is a 15th-century wooden crucifix above the main altar which is placed in a Corinthian aedicule. The original 15th century side chapel was remodelled in the Baroque era. It was restored by Lorenzo Soderini in 1825 when a dedicatory slab was set in the pavement. The side walls are articulated by painted Corinthian pilasters and the splays of the windows are decorated with trophies. Two big frescos by a Flemish artist, Pieter van Lint depict scenes from The Legend of the True Cross. Their stucco frames are crowned with the Soderini coat-of-arms. The frescos on the vault and the lunettes depict Angels with the Symbols of the Passion and Prophets. They were painted by Lint around 1633-40. The entrance of the chapel is barred by a solid marble parapet which is decorated with vases and cornucopias.
The Cerasi Chapel holds two famous canvases painted by Caravaggio - Crucifixion of St. Peter and Conversion on the Way to Damascus (1600–01). These are probably the most important works of art in the basilica. Situated between the two works of Caravaggio is the altarpiece Assumption of the Virgin by Annibale Carracci.
After Bernini's intervention, the church became a favourite burial place for the rich people of the city. Some of the people buried in the church are:
- Girolamo Basso della Rovere
- Giovanni Battista Gisleni
- Agostino Chigi
- Sigismondo Chigi
- Maria Flaminia Odescalchi Chigi
- Ferry de Clugny
- Jorge da Costa (1406–1508), Portuguese cardinal
- Savo Millini
- Ascanio Sforza
Dome of the Chigi Chapel by Raphael
The conversion on the way to Damascus, by Caravaggio
Crucifixion of Saint Peter, by Caravaggio
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Santa Maria del Popolo (Rome).|
- SM del Popolo: A Multimedia Presentation of the church and its setting, Australian National University
- Santa Maria del Popolo Video Introduction
- Santa Maria del Popolo, article and photos at Sacred Destinations
- Piazza del Popolo, at "Rome Art Lover"
- Fact Sheet Further Images and Links of Santa Maria del Popolo
- Santa Maria del Popolo, virtual tour with map and compass effect by Tolomeus