Church of the Gesù

Published date: 09/07/2024
  • Location: Church Of The Gesù, Rome, San Francesco I, Basilicate, Italy
The Church of the Gesù (its full name is the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus) is the mother church of the Jesuits (also known as the Society of Jesus)—a Catholic religious order founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola in the mid-16th century. The church is the model for numerous other Jesuit churches across the world.

After two false starts in 1551 and 1554, because of legal and funding problems, construction of the church was finally begun in 1568, with funding provided by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. The building was designed according to the requirements of the Council of Trent, which had sought to modernize and rationalize Catholicism after the Protestant Reformation had exposed the corrupt practices of the medieval church. As such, there is no narthex (lobby); instead, the entrance leads straight into the body of the church, with attention focused on the high altar.

There are 10 chapels in the church, including one dedicated to St. Ignatius, designed by Andrea Pozzo, which houses the saint’s tomb and a statue of the saint designed by Pierre le Gros the Younger. The interior of the church was originally relatively bare, until Giovanni Battista Gauli was commissioned to paint it; the main feature is the ceiling fresco, The Triumph of the Name of Jesus. The church is also home to the original depiction of Madonna della Strada (Our Lady of the Way), the patroness of the Jesuits. The painting is an anonymous late 15th-century work of the Roman school.

The Church of the Gesù is in many ways the symbol of the Catholic Reformation. It reflected the new trends in the built structure of the church and housed the most well-known order of this new brand of Catholicism, the Jesuits, who grew to be the largest order of the church. (Jacob Field)

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