Honors in Rome - Summer 2006
Some special satisfaction in the bottom of my heart and often for relief from my weariness I come here to console myself with my work.”
Standing directly opposite to Palazzo del Quirinale stands a “jewel”. This jewel was not just a church of Jesuit seminary on the Quirinale Hill, but became a demonstration as to the complexity in process of building such place. Considered one of the finest examples of Roman Baroque architecture, Gian Lorenzo Bernini found “some special satisfaction in the bottom” of his heart. The complexity along with the unity of the church brings forth a strong, powerful statement to art and history. This strong and powerful statement built by Bernini is the Sant’ Andrea al Quirinale.
In 1565-1566, the Jesuits established a novitiate on the Quirinal Hill, which incorporated it to a smaller older church of St. Andrea. In 1567, a new chapel was to be built right next to the old church. However, there were worries that this second chapel was small and dark. By the mid-seventeenth century, the Jesuits wanted to replace it, but attracting a patronage was difficult. Before Bernini started his work, two cardinals considered taking up the Jesuits plan to replace the “small, dark, and damp” church with a grander one: Cardinal Ludovisi and Cardinal Ceva.
In 1622, under Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, the nephew of Gregory XV, wanted to build a family mausoleum dedicated to St. Francis Xavier, who was “newly canonized in that year”. Cardinal Ludovisi offered a sum of 100,000 scudi but with the death of his uncle and selection of Urban VIII brought this attempt to an end. Urban VIII forbid construction of all but lower buildings opposite the Palazzo del Quirinale because he did not want the Palazzo to be covered. In 1647, Cardinal Francesco Adriana Ceva made plans for Borromini for a “grand and sumptuous” church dedicated jointly to St. Andrew and St. Francis Xavier. Borromini was chosen to appeal the reigning pope, Innocent X, since he was the favored architect during the time. In addition, it is said that Bernini was in disgrace because of bell towers at Saint Peter’s which is why Francesco went with Borromini. However, Pope Innocent X did not want a church rising across from Quirinale palace because of similar reasons that Urban VIII had. The actual church standing today began Innocent X’s nephew, Camillo Pamphili, and the next Pope, Alexander VII.
Alexander VII went into negotiations with the Jesuits, Bernini, and Camillo Pamphili involving the new church. On July 1658, Alexander VII told Jesuit cardinal, Sforza Pallavicino, he was going to grant permission for a church that other Popes denied. Moreover, Gian Lorenzo Bernini would be the architect. Camillo Pamphili at first offered a commitment of 15,000 scudi, but the Jesuit Fathers rejected as it was insufficient to begin the project. Later the novitiate accumulated a debt, and when Camillo appeared again, the 15,000 scudi were accepted. Why would Alexander VII allow the construction of the church unlike his predecessors, and why would Camillo give money to build it?
For Alexander VII, commissioning such building had “practical and aesthetic” advantages. The church would not only enhance the Quirinal image, but he could use the Sant' Andrea as a “palace chapel to serve new apartments and offices”. Also, Camillo’s generosity had a greater meaning than just building a novitiate. He hoped to gain the land from the nearby landlords, who were mostly Jesuits, to develop his new palace, Palazzo Pamphili (Doria-Pamphili). During this time, Camillo was indebted to Alexander VII because Alexander had helped make truce between Camillo and his mother, Olimpia Maidalchini. This resulted Camillo to be the Pamphili family heir again. Also, by resolving the conflict with Camillo and his wife, Olimpia Aldobrandini, a Borghese widow, Camillo was placed amongst the wealthiest Roman nobilities. Both Alexander VII and Camillo had other intentions in mind, which fit in unity because by building Sant’ Andrea al Quirinale their intentions were fulfilled.
Even before the Jesuits authorized the building of the church, Alexander VII contacted Bernini about the designs. When this church was about to be built, Camillo spoke of a grand church filled with expensive marbles. However, the Jesuit community was nervous because many times these lavish projects were left unfinished. The Jesuits saw that an inexpensive church was not out of “philosophical oppositions but for fear of not completing the job that had begun.” Later on, the complexity in the church would confirm the Jesuit’s fears. On the other hand, on August 9, 1658, the Pope and Bernini met, and Bernini agreed to talk to the Jesuits “as though on his own initiative”.
Originally the design was pentagonal-shaped with five altars when Bernini brought it to the Pope on September 2, 1658. The Jesuits required five altars to honor Saint Andrew, Francis Xavier, Stanislaus Kostka, Ignatius Loyola, and the Virgin of Sorrows. However, the configuration of a pentagonal church was awkward not just in shape but the area given was not optimal. Thus, Bernini switched to an oval plan where the dimensions and proportions were optimal with the site available. For example, he set longer dimensions of the oval parallel to the street and make the entrance axis shorter. In result, the new church would have its maximum size available.
Before entering Bernini’s “jewel”, there is a semi-circular porch held by two ionic columns with the Pamphili coat of arms (Figure 1). Next to these are the Corinthian pilasters. There is a continuous layout of concave, convex, concave, and convex.
For example, the pilasters seemed convex while the others parts are concaving, typical of baroque. In addition, before the modern streets were paved the church was actually concaved in (Figure 2). So, when an individual was walking up the street, they could see the church located back creating a religious and important aura. Also, the semicircular staircase connects the outside and inside of the church. This half-ellipse balances the other half of the ellipse on the other side. Here we find a complex layout of ellipse, concave, and convex creating a unified shape. The basic design of the church gives the surface of Bernini’s work. The real masterpiece lies within.
As the observer walks in and looks up, the gold elliptical dome is seen (Figure 3). Divided into ten gores, there are pairs of stucco figures portraying angels with festoons or fishermen who were symbols of Andrew’s companions. The putti are amongst flowers and fruit that seem to swing across the dome (Figures 4&5). Throughout the entire church there is a coherent increase in putty carrying garlands and fishermen handling shells, nets, oars, and reeds. Total there is approximately 138 stucco figures of putti and fishermen. These decorations started after the lantern was finished in 1661. In the middle of the dome is a vault. The vault is surrounded with yellow stained-glass so church always seems bright and has the dove of the Holy Spirit flying over. It is important to note that it was not just Bernini who worked on the church. For example, the Pamphili family sent their own capo maestro Giovanni Maria Baratta to oversee the placing of cottonella marble next to the high altar and polishing of stone surfaces. These tasks would be carried out through meetings with Bernini and his sculptures, particularly Antonio Raggi and Pietro Sassi.
As one walks up to the main chapel, a marble floor with gravestones is seen. Done in 1670 by Mattia de’ Rossi on Bernini’s design, these are the three burial places of the three cardinals. After the entrance one finds the burial place of Cardinal Pietro Sforza Pallvicini, then Cardinal Giulio Spinola, and next to the high altar is Cardinal Melzi’s grave.
Walking into the church, the viewer is attracted to the chapel dedicated to St. Andrew. The color, lighting, and the designs on the marble floor all make the eyes be directed forward. Another reason is due to the geometry of the church as the conventional horizontal and vertical importance is substituted for “oblique axial”. St. Andrew is hung on a cross where there are putties and angels scattered around the frame. Known as the “Borgogonone delle Battaglie” by Guglielmo Courtois in 1668, the painting represents the Martyrdom of Saint Andrew to which the church is dedicated to (Figure 6). The painting seems to float above the high altar supported by golden rays and angels guiding it. Above this painting on the high altar is Apostle (Figure 6A). With his hands stretched up toward the light which comes in through the lantern high up in the dome. The statue was carved by Bernini’s pupil Antonio Raggi on Bernini’s design. According to Racconto della Fabrica, Bernini regularly looked over Raggi’s work and had him destroy and redo statues if they did not satisfy him. “Many times he climbed up to readjust them with his owns hands.” This is another example of complexity meeting unity. The picture seems to be lifted by golden rays towards the top. The angels guide the painting, and Apostle is pointing in the direction which the picture is intended go: the dome where the dove of the Holy Spirit is located. Individual components are all interconnected to tell of a statement. As in the case of his chapel, it shows of St. Andrew’s rise to heaven. Directly across this chapel above the entrance are the trumpeting figures of Fame, who bear an inscribed band heralding the patronage of Pamphili (Figure 7). Before building this church, the Jesuits were worried about such lavish church not being finished. During the time that Bernini was designing the high altar the Jesuits worries were almost met.
Between 1662 and 1665, the novitiate did not receive money from Camillo. The Jesuits previous fears seemed to be coming true, but eventually Camillo sold off family valuables and the work continued. In the appendix of “Bernini’s S. Andrea al Quirinale” by Joseph Connors, lists that total costs gone to building. Upon reading the section, it can be seen that Camillo sold two silver vases and a silver fountain to maintain the construction of the church. Then in July 1666, Camillo died and his principal heir, Prince Giovanni Battista Pamphili, refused to continue and to address the debt. Eventually the prince changed his mind and in 1668 Bernini was called to design the high altar area.
After the high altar to the left is the la Cappella di Santo Santislao, or the chapel dedicated to Saint Stanislaus Kostka. The different components show life episodes of the Polish saint. The altarpiece is called “The Apparition of the Virgin to Saint Stanislaus”, which was by Carlo Maratta in 1678. To the right is the “Ecstasy of Saint Stanislaus” by Ludovico Mazzanti around 1725. Also by Ludovico Mazzanti around 1720 is the “Communion of Saint Stanislaus” on the left. Saint Stanislaus’ body is preserved in the lapis lazuli urn under the altar. An important fact to add is the unity of this chapel and the rest of the chapels. All the chapels are darker than the congregational room and similar in lighting because of the window placement behind each altar. Following Saint Stanislaus is the chapel of Saint Loyola, Gonzaga, and Borgia.
The next chapel is dedicated to Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Aloysius Gonzaga, and Francis Borgia. In the center is the “Virgin of Saint Ignatius, Francis Borgia, and Aloysius Gonzaga”. On the right is the “Adoration of the Shepherds” and left is the “Adoration of Magi” both by Ludovico David. Following the chapel of these Saints is the la Cappella della Passione.
The “Pieta”, or la Cappella della Passione, was by Giacinto Brandi from 1675-1682. The Altar piece depicts the “Deposition from Cross”, which was done around 1675-1677. To the right is the “Flagellation”, which was done around 1677-1682, and finally to the left is “Going up to Calvary”. Beyond the “Pieta” is la Cappella di San Francesco Saverio.
La Cappella di San Francesco Saverio is a chapel highlighting Saint Francis Xavier (Figure 8). Dedicated to this Saint, the chapel was worked on by Giovanni Battista Gaulli and is called the “Baciccio” (Figure 8). In the center is the “Death of Saint Francis Xavier” which was done around 1676. To the right is the “Sermon of Saint Francis Xavier” and left is the “Saint Francis Xavier baptizes a queen”. In addition to this chapel, there were three rooms dedicated to a young Polish saint: Saint Stanislaus Kostka.
Designed and built by Bernini from 1658 to 1678, these rooms was where the Saint lived for some months as Jesuit novice and where he died on 15 August 1568. In the first room are 12 large sketches by Jesuit artist Fra’ Andrew Pozzo. These show episodes of the Saint’s brief life, from birth at Rostkow near Warsaw to his arrival in Rome in 1567. In the second room are two paintings of Saint Robert Bellarmine and Saint Peter Canisius. There is a photocopy of a letter sent from Saint Peter Canisius to Saint Francis Borgia on September 25, 1567. This letter is known as the letter “of the three Saints” as Canisius refers three young novices whom he is sending from Vienna to Rome. One novice was Saint Stanislaus Kostka whom he wrote is “an excellent young man, of whom we have the greatest hope, but have not yet received him as a novice because his family is completely against it”. The third room was probably where the saint died. In the center is a statue by Pierre Legros made of polychrome marble (Figure 9). The Saint’s head, hands, feet, cushion was carved out of Corinthian marble. The Saint’s clothing is made of black granite while the mattress is of yellow alabaster. At the head of the bed is a painting by Tommaso Minardi (1787-1871) showing the Virgin surrounded by angles and virgin martyr Saints Cecilia, Agnes, and Dorothy welcoming the Saint into Heaven. On the right is an altar decorated with gifts from various novices honoring the Saint. The altar on the left was commissioned by Francis Borgia and is called the “Borghesiana Virgin”.
Over a period of 20 years, from 1658 to 1678, Gian Lorenzo Bernini worked on the Sant’ Andrea al Quirinale. It is said that Bernini did not charge a fee for building this church and the only payment he received was bread donations from the novitiate. Why did Bernini work so hard on this church? Was he making amends for his failure before or was he that religious in his later years? No one will know, but the building of Sant’ Andrea al Quirinale shows how complex a process can become: from the fluctuating funding to the Papal agreement wavering. Despite these difficulties, Bernini had a reason to take consolation for the church because it became more than the sum of the individual parts. The “jewel” became a test against time, luck, and history. In the end, Sant’ Andrea al Quirinale combined complexity and unity to create a strong, powerful statement to history and art.
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