While visiting Rome do not miss the opportunity to explore the exquisite Santa Maria della Vittoria. A true Baroque gem nestled in the heart of Rome. This lesser-known, but utterly captivating, church is a testament to the artistic brilliance of its time, and I’m here to guide you through its rich history and architectural wonders. Plus, this church holds the famous Bernini sculpture, Ecstasy of Saint Teresa.
Santa Maria della Vittoria, or Our Lady of Victory, is a Roman Catholic church that dates back to the 17th century. Commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, this architectural masterpiece is a prime example of the Baroque style that flourished during the Counter-Reformation.
The church was named after the victory of the catholic army against the Bohemians in the battle of the White Mountain. Not making the connection to the name? Let me explain further. At a critical moment in the horrific battle, Father Domenico di Gesù and Maria, the army chaplain intervened in the fight. He wore an image symbolizing Mary adoring the Child around his neck, with rays of light emanating from the portrait. This sight astonished the enemy, compelling them to retreat. On May 8, 1622, the miraculous image was conveyed to the church, which was subsequently dedicated to the Virgin Mary in commemoration of the victorious battle.
As you step into the sacred space of Santa Maria della Vittoria, be prepared to be transported to an era of opulence and grandeur. The church’s interior is a mesmerizing display of Baroque extravagance, featuring intricate sculptures, ornate frescoes, and a captivating use of light and space. Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the master of Baroque art, left his indelible mark with the creation of the Cornaro Chapel, a sublime masterpiece that showcases his artistic genius. I would implore you to take a seat and really take in the beauty of the art around you.
The pièce de résistance within Santa Maria della Vittoria is undoubtedly Bernini’s magnum opus, “The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa.” This breathtaking sculpture, housed in the Cornaro Chapel, captures the intense spiritual experience of the saint. It is constructed out of one piece of Carrara marble. This sculpture is considered shockingly sexually explicit. However, the master Bernini is probably one of the only artists that could actually get away with something, so… scandalous.
Saint Teresa was canonized in 1622 (made a saint) because of the spiritual visions she experienced. She was a nun in 16th century Spain at the time of the Reformation. Her health was horrible, and she was an invalid for three years. After her recovery, she stopped praying until 1555 when she had a religious awakening. She founded many convents and monasteries in Spain and played a part reforming the religious societies throughout Spain.
Beyond the splendor of Bernini’s sculptures, Santa Maria della Vittoria boasts a harmonious blend of architectural elements. The church’s façade, designed by Giovanni Battista Soria, is an elegant composition of columns, pilasters, and intricate detailing. The interior, with its soaring domes and richly adorned chapels beckons visitors to explore every corner, and you should.
Rome is full of historical and architectural wonders and Santa Maria della Vittoria offers a more intimate and contemplative experience. The church’s relatively serene atmosphere allows for a deeper appreciation of Baroque art and its spiritual significance. If you seek a respite from the crowds and want to marvel at the finer details of Rome’s artistic legacy, Santa Maria della Vittoria is a must-visit.
In the 1580s, artisans completed the Fontana dell’Acqua Felice, placing a substantial statue of the prophet Moses at its core. Critics have consistently criticized the fountain since its construction, citing its perceived oversize, disproportion, and peculiar appearance. Let me know what you think.
In the heart of Rome, Santa Maria della Vittoria stands as a testament to the Baroque era’s artistic brilliance. This hidden gem invites you to step into a world where spirituality and art converge in a breathtaking display. Include this Baroque marvel in your Roman itinerary and witness the beauty that unfolds within its hallowed walls.
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