GIORNALE 5: Chiesa del Gesù

Another church! My final solo excursion was to the Chiesa del Gesù (Church of the Jesus) and it certainly fell under the category of ‘best for last.’ The church, oddly enough, is right next to our familiar stomping ground Scholar’s Pub, so of course jokes were made about how it just didn’t feel “proper” to enter the chiesa after recent nights.
Some classmates had already visited and told us about the two relic skeletal hands that resided in the church. I surveyed the entire church when I walked in, excitedly looking for these. Instead, I saw tons of different colored marble in the wall and arranged in ornate patterned lines that wound around the columns and chapels. I followed them upwards and saw one of my top 5 favorite ceiling frescoes in Rome. The church had even installed a mirror at an angle on the floor so you could see every bit of the artwork. The shading on the far end contrasted really nicely with the intense center starburst and on the end above the entrance, two marble angels seemed to be hanging out of the ceiling. I alternated between gazing into the mirror and craning my neck upwards for a while before I realized I should probably check out the side chapels and main altar.
Luckily, I made it to the giant golden shrine to San Ignazio in time to see the statue in its niche before a giant painting slid up over everything. It totally hid the statue, so if I had not seen it, I would have never believed it was there or been able to see it, because try as we might, the machine wouldn’t take our Euros to reopen the magic door. It was a really impressive combination of modern, ancient and holy.
Across the transept is another large chapel that holds one of the relic hands (I couldn’t find the other one by the end of our visit). To the left, the altar in the end apse is not ornate like others we had seen in Rome but it is covered in flowers, which were a nice changed from gold-leafing and shiny Byzantine artwork.
There is also a chapel to the Madonna della Strada (Madonna of the Street), which houses a 15th century painting of Madonna and child. On the left side of the chiesa is a chapel with a crucified Jesus. A single bulb and a row of candles flickering in front of the giant statue dimly light the room. This artist gave Jesus an extremely pained expression, successfully evoking from me a mixture of sympathy and guilt, since I haven’t been the most devout Christian. I always appreciate when an artist can do that, especially with Crucifixion pieces. The works with Jesus who looks like he’s too holy to feel pain are the ones I usually skim over during museum visits – it’s the works that show real emotion and pain that make me stop in my tracks.
This final church left me thirsty for more, so I revisited Santa Maria in Aracoeli since it was right around the corner. Even though I came to Rome dreading every church tour, I came to love the artwork and the sanctuary each church provided. I even liked Santa Sabina, one of the more plain churches we visited, because its scarce artwork was so vastly different from a basilica like the Vatican.

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