Sign Up
Newsletter Signup
Free Fodor's Newsletter

Subscribe today for weekly travel inspiration, tips, and special offers.

Passport: Your weekly travel wrap-up
Today's Departure: Your daily dose of travel inspiration

Rome Sights

Il Gesù

  • Piazza del Ges Map It
  • Campo de' Fiori
  • Religious Building/Site/Shrine

Updated 03/19/2014

Fodor's Review

The mother church of the Jesuits in Rome is the prototype of all Counter-Reformation churches. Considered the first fully Baroque church, it has spectacular interior that tells a lot about an era of religious triumph and turmoil. Its architecture (the overall design was by Vignola, the facade by della Porta) influenced ecclesiastical building in Rome for more than a century and was exported by the Jesuits throughout the rest of Europe. Though consecrated as early as 1584,

the interior of the church wasn't decorated for another 100 years. It was originally intended that the interior be left plain to the point of austerity—but, when it was finally embellished, no expense was spared. Its interior drips with gold and lapis lazuli, gold and precious marbles, gold and more gold, all covered by a fantastically painted ceiling by Baciccia. Unfortunately, the church is also one of Rome's most crepuscular, so its visual magnificence is considerably dulled by lack of light.

The architectural significance of Il Gesù extends far beyond the splendid interior. The first of the great Counter-Reformation churches, it was put up after the Council of Trent (1545–63) had signaled the determination of the Roman Catholic Church to fight back against the Reformed Protestant heretics of northern Europe. The church decided to do so through the use of overwhelming pomp and majesty, in its effort to woo believers. As a harbinger of ecclesiastical spectacle, Il Gesù spawned imitations throughout Italy and the other Catholic countries of Europe as well as the Americas.

The most striking element is the ceiling, which is covered with frescoes that swirl down from on high to merge with painted stucco figures at the base, the illusion of space in the two-dimensional painting becoming the reality of three dimensions in the sculpted figures. Baciccia, their painter, achieved extraordinary effects in these frescoes, especially in the Triumph of the Holy Name of Jesus, over the nave. Here, the figures representing evil cast out of heaven seem to be hurtling down onto the observer. For details, the spectacle is best viewed through a specially tilted mirror in the nave.

The founder of the Jesuit order himself is buried in the Chapel of St. Ignatius, in the left-hand transept. This is surely the most sumptuous baroque altar in Rome; as is typical, the enormous globe of lapis lazuli that crowns it is really only a shell of lapis over a stucco base—after all, baroque decoration prides itself on achieving stunning effects and illusions. The heavy bronze altar rail by architect Carlo Fontana is in keeping with the surrounding opulence.

Read More

Sight Information

Address:

Piazza del Ges, off Via del Plebiscito, Rome, 00186, Italy

Map It

Phone:

06-697001

Sight Details:

  • Daily 7–12:30 and 4–7:45

Updated 03/19/2014

Advertisement

Map View

Map of



What's Nearby

  • Hotels
  • Restaurants
  • Sights

See all sights in Rome

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating

By Cindy

  • Service

  • Food

  • Décor

  • Value

Sep 10, 2002

Second only to St. Peter's!

Don't miss stopping by the Gesu Church while in Rome--It's within easy walking distance of the Pantheon, Forum, etc., and is absolutely glorious! Extremely ornate, and the ceiling is fantastic. Don't miss all of the little chapels along the sides of the church also.

Add Your Own Review

When did you go?

Minimum 200 character count

How many stars would you give?

Experience

Ease

Value

Don't Miss

Advertisement