Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome

S Maria Del Popola - Cerasi Chapel

This image of Santa Maria dela Popolo in Rome is part of one of the panoramic images found on the PanoramicEarth.com Tour of Rome. There are over 100 images taken from around Rome linked to an interactive map.

The Ghost of Nero
The church of Santa Maria del Popolo is linked to a ghost story. It started as a chapel erected over the tombs of the Domitia family. Nearby was a walnut tree inhabited by ravens. It was believed that the tree was inhabited by the ghost of Nero, and that the ravens were demons sent to torment him. On building the chapel in 1099 Pope Paschal II cut the tree down. And that was the end of that.

The chapel was dedicated to Mary, and funded by the people of Rome, hence the name Poplo. It was rebuilt twice more and the current building dates from the late 15C. Like many other churches in Rome, that of S Maria del Popolo contains a large number of artifacts important to both the religious and arts fraternities. To list them all would make for lengthy reading, but they include the Crucifixion of St Peter and the Conversion of St Paul in the Cerasi Chapel, painted by Caravaggio in 1600.

Within the church are several other chapels, many funded by rich families. These include the Chigi Chapel with a series of mosaics in the dome depicting God creating 7 heavenly bodies known at this time, each of which was guided by an angel.

Politics and Intrigue
The church is also the burial site for Ascanio Sforaz who arranged the marriage of the illegitimate daughter of Pope Alexander VI (conceived before he became Pope) and subsequently accused of the murder of the same Pope’s son. Ascanio tried to obtain the papacy 3 times during his lifetime but failed. He died age 50 and the tomb here was commissioned by Pope Julius II, the Warrior Pope who founded the Swiss Guards.

In recent times the church has been popularized as a setting for part of the Dan Brown novel Angels and Demons.

The image here shows the famous Assumption of the Virgin Mary, by Annibale Carracci which is above the altar in the Cerasi Chapel. The whole image is found on the Rome tour by PanoramicEarth.com.

For more articles on Rome see the Rome Index or select one of the labels at the bottom.

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