Wednesday, March 14, 2018

ST. AUGUSTINE (first part)

The original church dates back to 1296, built for Boniface VIII Caetani (1294/1303)
Enlarged and restored in the years 1479/83 by Giacomo da Pietrasanta (active from 1452/d. about 1497) and Sebastiano Fiorentino (active 1479/83) for the powerful and extraordinary wealthy Cardinal Guillaume d'Estouteville, chamberlain of Sixtus IV Della Rovere (1471/84) and protector of the Augustinians
The FAÇADE was built with marble taken from the Colosseum
“This is one of the first Renaissance façades in Rome, really interesting because it shows, even with some disproportions and a lack of consistency on the whole, the typical desire of the time to research and experiment with new architectural solutions” (Valeria Annecchino)
Transformed in 1756/61 by Luigi Vanvitelli (1700/73) who reworked also the bell tower. He was at the same time engaged in the construction of the humongous Royal Palace of Caserta and he had therefore entrusted the work on his behalf to Carlo Murena (1713/64)
It was restored again in the nineteenth century until 1870
St. Augustine (354/430), one of the fathers of the church, was born in Africa, in Algeria and died in Ippona, in Sardinia, where he was bishop. He is buried in Pavia. He founded the Order of the Hermits focused mainly on charitable activities and the study of theology
In the past the church had a unique feature in Rome: it was the only one to admit courtesans and it houses the tombs of some of them: Fiammetta, the lover of Cesare Borgia, Giulia Campana with her daughters, Penelope and the famous Tullia d'Aragona
It was the first church in Rome for which a dome was built. The present dome was rebuilt by Luigi Vanvitelli
It was a church so important that even Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475/1564) was commissioned a painting for the church, the “Entombment”, unfinished and now in the National Gallery in London
On the left “Madonna of Childbirth” 1521 by Jacopo Tatti aka Jacopo Sansovino (1486/1570), pupil of Andrea Sansovino (he inherited his nickname) for the heirs of the Florentine merchant Giovanni Martelli who had built the chapel
The statue was originally known as Madonna del Sasso (Our Lady of the Stone) and is still very much venerated among Roman pregnant women who frequently leave messages of prayer or thanksgiving at the statue
The tradition began in 1820 after a husband, worried about the pregnancy of his wife, had his prayer answered. He had kept a lamp on in front of the statue day and night
Probably Jacopo Sansovino was inspired by an ancient statue in porphyry representing Apollo seated, kept in a Roman palace at the time and now in the Archaeological Museum of Naples
To the left of the Madonna of Childbirth “Tomb of Francesca Faggioli” d. 1661 wife of the painter Francesco Cozza (1605/82) who painted the portrait on the monument
The very large ORGAN dates back to 1905
Two basins shell-shaped in black marble supported by two angels in white marble: “Raphael” on the left 1650 by Cosimo Fanzago (1591/1678) and “Gabriel” on the right 1660 by pupils of Fanzago
“In the Renaissance church more light had been planned, not only from the windows now closed on the right-end side, but also from the windows, now closed as well, which opened in every chapel. Brightness was widespread and enhanced by the whiteness of the pillars, covered with travertine up to a third of their height and by the whitewashed walls. The Renaissance church expressed in full, with its harmonious proportions and its diffuse light, the ideal of composed beauty of Christian humanism, for which aesthetic was deeply connected to the values and truths of faith. Medieval reminiscences perhaps due to the building traditions of the architect and workers, are visible in the strong upward thrust of the architectural framework as well as in the use of external buttresses at the sides” (Valeria Annecchino)
The church was painted in the years 1855/68 by Pietro Gagliardi (1809/90) helped by his nephew Giovanni and Enrico Marini with the following works:
On the walls of the nave “Stories from the Life of the Virgin Mary”, whose sketches are kept at the Museum of Rome, which correspond to “Jewish Heroines” foretellers of the Virgin Mary, and on the VAULT “Abraham and David”
On the PILLARS “Five prophets authors of Marian prophecies” and in the PRESBYTERY “Scene of the triumph of Mary after her death”
Fresco “Isaiah the Prophet” of 1512 Raffaello Sanzio (Raphael) (1483/1520) clearly inspired by the figures by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel
In the parchment unrolled by the prophet are these word in Hebrew: “Open the doors so people who believe enter” (Isaiah - XXVI, 2)
Below “Madonna and Child with St. Anne” 1512 by Andrea Contucci aka Andrea Sansovino (1460/1529)
There is an interesting contrast between the realistic facial features of St. Anne and the beautifully and abstractly classic look of the Virgin Mary
Both works were commissioned by Giovanni Goritz from Luxembourg
The day of St. Anne all the poets of Rome used to hung their poems around the statue, they would go to Mass and then they would all eat at Goritz's home near Capitoline Hill
Completed in 1644 and maybe designed by Vincenzo Della Greca (1592/1661) who, at that time, was the architect of the monastery
Magnificent polychrome marble inlays representing Augustinian symbols

         Right End Side of the Church
“Monuments of Stefano and Lorenzo Mutini” beginning of 1600s
“St. Catherine of Alexandria” oil on slate, on the right “St. Lawrence” and on the left “St. Stephen” oil on paper, about 1550/60 by Marcello Venusti (about 1512/79)
“Madonna of the Roses” 1589 copy by Domenico Spagnolo from the original Madonna of the Veil that Raphael did for S. Maria del Popolo. Now it is in Chantilly
In the apse three round panels “Stories of the Virgin Mary” frescoes about 1587/88 by Avanzino Nucci (1552/1629) for Cardinal G.B. Castagna later Urban VII (1590), who was pope for only twelve days, the shortest papacy in history
On the right “St. John the Evangelist” and on the left “St. John the Baptist” maybe by G.B. Montagna recently rediscovered
On the right “Tomb of Pietro Gagliardi” who had painted the two side paintings now moved into the sacristy after the discovery of the frescoes by G.B. Montagna
1672 G.B. Contini (1641/1723). S. Rita after praying to share the sufferings of Christ on the Cross was given a thorn from the crown in her forehead and kept it there for fifteen years
“Ecstasy of S. Rita” about 1674 by Giacinto Brandi (1621/91) for the princess Camilla Orsini Borghese
In the apse “S. Rita miraculously introduced into the convent by her patrons saints Augustine, Nicholas of Tolentino and John the Baptist”, on the right “S. Rita as a girl surrounded by bees” and on the left “Death of S. Rita” about 1686 by Pietro Locatelli (about 1634/about 1710), a pupil of Pietro da Cortona
Marble group “Delivery of the Keys” 1596 by G.B. Cotignola
In the pediment table “God the Father” of the end of 1400s by the school of Pinturicchio
Apse “Musical Angels”, on the right “Immaculate Conception” and on the left “Assumption” beginning of 1600s by Giuseppe Vasconio, pupil of Guido Reni
“Wooden cross” end of 1400s, before which St. Philip Neri used to pray during the period of his studies in the adjacent convent
Above the pediment “Angels in stucco with symbols of the Passion” mid seventeenth century by an anonymous seventeenth-century artist
Renovation begun in 1636 by Vincenzo Della Greca (1592/1661)
“Sts. Augustine among St. John the Evangelist and St. Paul the First Hermit” by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri aka Guercino (1591/1666)
Canvas at the sides: on the right “St. Augustine defeat heresies” and on the left “St. Augustine welcomes the Redeemer in the guise of a pilgrim” by Giovanni Lanfranco (1582/1647)
On the left “Tomb of Cardinal Giuseppe Renato Imperiali” designed by Paolo Posi (1708/76) in 1741 with sculptures by Pietro Bracci (1700/73). The mosaic portrait of the cardinal was made by Ludovico Stern (1709/77) and executed by the mosaicist of St. Peter's Basilica Pietro Paolo Cristofari (1685/1743)
Cardinal Giuseppe Renato Imperiali was the great-grandson of Cardinal Lorenzo Imperiali buried in the left transept
On the right “Baptism of St. Augustine” by Pietro Gagliardi (1809/90)
To the right of the main altar
S. Nicholas of Tolentino (1249/1305) was the first Augustinian saint to be canonized and he is patron of the souls in Purgatory
Frescoes and stucco work on the ceiling “Stories of St. Nicholas of Tolentino” about 1585/90 by G.B. Ricci (about 1550/1624) and Vincenzo Conti (second half of 1500s/about 1620)
The extraordinary decorative apparatus can well mask the fact that the right side of the chapel is longer than the left
Frescoes on the side walls, “Four Blessed of the Augustinian order”, on the right “End of the plague in Cordova” and on the left “Vision of St. Nicholas during the celebration of the Mass” about 1850 by Pietro Gagliardi (1809/90)
Altar “St. Nicholas of Tolentino” by Tommaso Salini (about 1575/1625) painter influenced by Caravaggio
1627 maybe Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598/1680) or Orazio Torriani (about 1601/about 1657)
Extraordinary “Temple-like tabernacle with dome” made of precious marbles sent from the West Indies by the Augustinian missionaries
Altar “Madonna Odighitria” maybe Byzantine
On the broken pediment two statues of “Angels kneeling” by the great Giuliano Finelli (1602/53) from terracotta models of Gian Lorenzo Bernini
On the doors on the sides “Two pairs of putti” on the left by Pietro Bracci (1700/73) and on the right by Bartolomeo Pincellotti (known from 1735/d. 1740)
In the upper part stained glass window “St. Augustine defeats heresy” by the master glassmaker Antonio Moroni (1825/86) who also made windows in other churches in Rome

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