Last month our family spent eight days in Rome. We rented an apartment near the Pantheon and went all over the city. In the course of spending my time in the city that surrounds the seat of my religion, I developed a desire to be more devout. The idea is so appealing to me— to have inside oneself a depth of commitment that allows you the freedom of purpose and clarity of mode.
My Catholicism is definitely deeper. We spent time in St. Peter’s Cathedral and I visited a set of churches near our house a number of times. I wanted to document all of that here and just capture thoughts and facts about each place. Here’s a complete set of 140 pics of my churches of Rome.
Santa Maria del Popolo church was one of my favorites.
Here’s all pics and a snip from Wikipedia:
Santa Maria del Popolo is an Augustinian church located in Rome, Italy. It stands to the north side of thePiazza del Popolo, one of the most famous squares in the city. The Piazza is situated between the ancientPorta Flaminia and the park of the Pincio. [The Porta Flaminia was one of the gates in the Aurelian Wall as well as the starting point of the Via Flaminia, the road to Ariminum (modern Rimini). The Via Flaminia was the most important route to the north of Ancient Rome.] The church includes works by several famous artists, architects and sculptors, for example Raphael, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Caravaggio, Pinturicchio, Andrea Bregno, Guillaume de Marcillat and Donato Bramante.
The buried relics, topped by skulls + crossbones worn by parishioner feet, reminded me of both the original sacrifice and the devotion of daily masses.
We finally got in to the Cerasi Chapel. Wonderful. The perspectives are so uncomfortable, off-kilter. The Crucifixion of St. Peter has so much labor and effort and grunting. Photos are not allowed of these paintings.
The painting depicts the martyrdom of St. Peter by crucifixion—Peter asked that his cross be inverted so as not to imitate his mentor, Christ, hence he is depicted upside-down. The large canvas shows Romans, their faces shielded, struggling to erect the cross of the elderly but muscular St. Peter. Peter is heavier than his aged body would suggest, and his lifting requires the efforts of three men, as if the crime they perpetrate already weighs on them.
The Conversion on the way to Damascus is painted with perfect looking-up-from-ones-knees perspective as well.
The painting depicts the moment recounted in Chapter 9 of Acts of the Apostles when Saul, soon to be the apostle Paul, fell on the road to Damascus. He heard the Lord say “I am Jesus, whom you persecute, arise and go into the city” (see Conversion of Paul). The Golden Legend, a compilation of medieval interpretations of biblical events, may have framed the event for Caravaggio.
Caravaggio’s first version of the Conversion painting is in the collection of Principe Guido Odescalchi. It is a much brighter and more Mannerist canvas, with an angel-sustained Jesus reaching downwards towards a blinded Paul.
Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria di Montesanto are two right across the piazza.
There was a performer doing a Statue of Liberty imitation in front of the place.
Here’s all shots I’ve got of the place and Wikipedia snip:
They are located on the Piazza del Popolo, facing the northern gate of the Aurelian Walls, at the entrance of Via del Corso on the square. The churches are often cited as “twin”, due to their similar external appearance: they have indeed some differences, in both plan and exterior details.
Looking from the square, the two churches define the so-called “trident” of streets departing from Piazza del Popolo: starting from the left, Via del Babuino, Via del Corso and Via di Ripetta. The first two are separated by Santa Maria in Montesanto, the latter by Santa Maria dei Miracoli.
The origin of the two churches traces back to the 17th century restoration of what was the main entrance to the Middle Ages and Renaissance Rome, from the Via Flaminia (known as Via Lataand Via del Corso in its urban trait). Pope Alexander VII commissioned the monumental design of the entrance of Via del Corso to architect Carlo Rainaldi. This included two churches with central plant, but the different shapes of the two areas available forced deep modifications to the projects.
Both were financed by cardinal Girolamo Gastaldi, whose crest is present in the two churches.
We went by here a few times, including once on our way to Villa Borghese. One day we made some sketches on the stairs there while waiting for a restaurant to open.
The Santa Maria Maddalena in Campo Marzio (La Maddalena) is located just north of the Pantheon, so I went there a number of times by myself just to sit.
Here’s all pics I took and a snip from Wikipedia:
The Order of Saint Camillus de Lellis had a church at that location in Rome since 1586 and in the 17th century started the construction of the current church, which was completed in 1699 in the Baroque style.
In seventy years of work several architects were involved including Carlo Quadri, Carlo Fontana (who is thought to have designed the dome) and Giovanni Antonio de Rossi. It is uncertain who designed the curved main facade, which was finished circa 1735 and is Rococo, an unusual style in Roman church facades. It also displays motifs reminiscent of Borromini. Early guide books credit Giuseppe Sardi with the its design. Between 1732 and 1734, however, as architect of the congregation of the Ministri degli Infirmi, the Portuguese architect Manuel Rodriguez Dos Santosdirected the completion of works at the church. The historian Alessandra Marino believes that it is to Dos Santos, rather than Giuseppe Sardi, that the design for the highly unusual façade decoration should be attributed.. The architectural historian Nina Mallory has also maintained that Sardi is unlikely to be the designer of the façade.
To the left of the church is the monastery, constructed circa 1678, by Paolo Amato from Palermo and completed by C.F. Bizzacheri in the early 1680’s.
The church is devoted to St. Camillus, who is the Universal Patron of the sick, hospitals, nurses and physicians, so there is an intensity to the place. Many people who mill through and pray at the various chapels leave remnants from loved ones for whom they seek healing. There is also a certain opulence and formality to the place, which is not uncommon in Rome, but seemed more pronounced here.
I often went to another church very nearby, and it always blew my mind: The Church of San Luigi dei Francesi.
Here’s my pics and a Wikipedia snip:
The Church of St. Louis of the French (Italian: San Luigi dei Francesi, French: Saint Louis des Français,Latin: S. Ludovici Francorum de Urbe) is a Roman Catholic minor basilica and titular church in Rome, not far from Piazza Navona. The church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, to St. Denis the Areopagite and St. Louis IX, king of France. The church was designed by Giacomo della Porta and built by Domenico Fontanabetween 1518 and 1589, and completed through the personal intervention of Catherine de’ Medici, who donated to it some property in the area. It is the national church in Rome of France. The currentCardinal-Priest of the Titulus S. Ludovici Francorum de Urbe is André Vingt-Trois.
There are three amazing Caravaggio paintings in this place.
The church’s most famous item is, however, the cycle of paintings in the Contarelli Chapel, painted by the Baroquemaster Caravaggio in 1599-1600 about the life of St. Matthew. This include the three world-renowned canvases of The Calling of St Matthew, The Inspiration of Saint Matthew, The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew.
The beginning of this video shows the three paintings as they existed in July 2012:
RomeSnips2 (Sunday) from Daniel X. O’Neil on Vimeo.
Another amazing church was Santa Maria in Trastevere.
Here’s my pics and a Wikipedia snip:
The Basilica of Our Lady in Trastevere (Italian: Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere) is a titular minor basilica, one of the oldest churches in Rome, and perhaps the first in which Mass was openly celebrated. The basic floor plan and wall structure of the church date back to the 340s, The first sanctuary was built in 221 and 227 by Pope Calixtus and later completed by Julius I 
Here’s a shot of me sitting in sunlight (face is more washed out than I wanted to be) along with Caleb photobombing in ORD Camp T shirt:
What I got out of the faded medieval paint of this place was the sheer will be to Catholic.
St. Peter’s Cathedral always moves me.
My pics (Wikipedia snip not necessary)
La Pieta, especially:
One surprise was to see that the crypt of Pope John Paul II is located right next to La Pieta. Here’s me, there:
Good thing they’ve got guards:
Last on my list is The Pantheon, which is actually a church by the name of Church of St. Mary and the Martyrs.
This place is a wonder. The poured-concrete, negative-space oculus astounds me.
And in the end, it is just a church.