jewel of Baroque art
Paul Gwynne - © Nerone The Insider's Guide to Rome
Exterior of the Church
Interior of the Church
The Side Chapels (entering on the right)
The Chapel of Saint Stanislas
Exterior of the Church
A new church for the Jesuit seminary on the Quirinal was begun in 1658 with funds
provided by Cardinal Camillo Pamphilj. The project was concieved and designed by
Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) who, together with his pupil De Rossi (1637-1695),
supervised the construction of the church. It took twenty years to build (1658-1678).
Almost immediately there were problems. The small site chosen for the new church restricted
the design. Bernini resolved the problem, as his rival Borromini had done further along
the rnad at San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, by designing an oval church. Unlike San Carlino,
however, the main entrance and high altar would be placed on the short axis of the
The oval provides the key to the whole design. A semicircular
porch, supported by
Ionic columns, projects from the high, narrow facade, topped by a pediment and
supported by two pairs of monumental Corinthian pilasters. The porch is dominated
by the Pamphilj coat-of-arms sculpted in travertine by two members of Bernini's workshop,
Lorenzo Dini and Domenico Basadone, "according to the taste and the satisfaction of the
The latter, under the direction of his master, designed the chapels, the
floor of the church and sacristy.
Neither Bernini nor the Rossi wanted payment in money for their work:
they desired gifts in kind and to receive the bread of the Jesuit
novitiate, annexed to the church.
Interior of the church
The oval interior, with
an entrance and high altar on the minor
axis, means that once inside the church the visitor is almost immediately
confronted by the high altar, flanked by two pairs of fluted Corinthian columns
in red marble. Behind lurks a masterpiece by Guglielmo Cortese (or Guillaume
Courtois, known as "Borgognone delle Battaglie" representing the Martyrdom of
the Apostle Andrew to whom the church is dedicated (1668). The painted ensemble
appears floating above the altar supported by rays of artificial golden light
down which slide a troop of angels, as if delivering the picture from some
celestial workshop. Above the recess of the high altar we meet the Apostle
again. As if the saint has left the altar to travel towards the dome and his
own apotheosis he is found kneeling on a cloud, which snuggles into the curving,
broken pediment. With upstretched hands he looks towards the light which floods
in through the lantern high up in the airy dome. The statue is not by Bernini
but carved after his designs by his pupil Antonio Raggi (1624-1686).
The dome is given the impression of extra height by the richly gilt coffering
which diminishes in size towards the lantern. Around the interior above the
windows goups of exuberant putti play in the swags of fruit and flowers which
swing between the ribs supporting the dome. Within the lantern itself, illuminated
with yellow stained-glass so that the church always seems bright, even on the
dullest day, flies the dove of the Holy Spirit. This is also conveniently the
badge of the Pamphilj family, whose coat-of-arms is repeated inside the church
over the main door. Nearly all the marble work is by Baratta, with the exception
of the floor decorated with the coats-of-arms of the Pallavicino, Spinola and Melzi
families. This was designed by De Rossi.
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The Side Chapels
(anticlockwise from the entrance)
Plan of the Interior
Saint Francis Xavier
The altarpiece and side paintings show the Jesuit saint preaching;
administering baptism; and his death in 1552. These are the work of Gaulli,
better known as "il Baciccia" (1706).
The altarpiece depicting the Deposition from the Cross and the side paintings
(Christ at the Column; and Saint Veronica are the work of Giacinto Brandi (1682).
To the side is the marble monument and tomb of Carlo Emanuele IV,
King of Sardinia and Piedmont. He abdicated from the throne in 1802
and in 1815 entered the Jesuit novitiate, annexed to the church.
He died here in 1819.
Saint Stanislas Kostka
The altarpiece is by Carlo Maratta (1687) and the side paintings are by Mazzanti.
These show episodes from the life of the Polish saint. His body is preserved in
the lapis lazuli urn under the altar (1706).
Saint Ignatius Loyola
The altarpiece shows three Jesuit saints: Ignatius, Francis Borgia and Luigi
The side paintings depicting the Adoration of the Shepherds and of the Magi are
by Ludovico Antonio di Lugano.
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(entered to the right of the main altar)
One of the most interesting parts of the church,
so ask to see it if it is locked.
and ornate ceiling
was painted by Giovanni De La Borde (1670).
It shows Saint Andrew in Glory, surrounded by angels and
accompanied by Jesuit saints. A sketch for the paintings and
the overall design was examined and approved by Bernini.
Along the walls are great cupboards carved in walnut, surmounted
by littles balustrades. On the back wall a painting of the Assumption
of the Virgin Mary, attributed to the Jesuit painter Fra'Andrea Pozzo
(1642-1709), can be admired.
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The Chapel of Saint Stanislas
Upstairs on the first floor of the pretty church of Sant'Andrea al
designed and built by the great Gian Lorenzo Bernini between 1658-78, are a
complex of three rooms dedicated to the young Polish saint Stanislas Kostka
(1550-1568), whose feast days falls 11 April. These rooms, where a little
museum deicated to the memory of the Saint has been assembled, can be found
via a staircase to the right of the high altar (ask the sacristan to open
them if they are locked, he is usually very obliging provided that the church
is not being prepared for a wedding). Although the present suite of rooms was
constructed later, it was in this place where the Saint lived for some months
as a Jesuit novice and where he died on 15 August 1568.
On the walls of the first room there are 12 large sketches by the Jesuit artist
Fra'Andrea Pozzo. These show episodes from the Saint's brief life, from his
birth at Rostkow near Warsaw to his arrival in Rome in 1567.
Both the floor, covered with majolica tiles, and the roof of the second room
date from the period of the Saint's brief sojourn in Rome. Note the photocopy
of a letter sent from Saint Peter Canisius to Saint Francis Borgia on
25 September 1567. This letter is known as the letter "of the three Saints",
as in it Canisius refers to three young novices whom he is sending from Vienna
to Rome. One of these was Saint Stanislas Kostka, about whom he wrote, he is
"an excellent young man, of whom we have the greatest hopes, but we have not yet
received him as a novice because his family was completely against it".
A marble plaque (with a poem in Polish commemorating the death of the Saint
by Camilo Norwid) recalls the visit of Cardinal Wyszynski and the Polish bishops
during the Second Vatican Council in 1960.
The third room, in which the saint died, probably of malaria on the eve of the
feast of the Assumption in 1568, has been converted into a chapel. In the centre
is an unusual statue in polychrome marbles, sculpted by Legros (1666-1719)
showing the death of the Saint. The Saint's head, hands and feet, as well as the
cushion beneath his head, have been carved in white Corinthian marble.
The Saint's vestments are of black granite, while the mattress on which he lays
is yellow alabaster. At the head of the bed is a painting by Tommaso Minardi
(1787-1871) showing Our Lady surrounded by angels and the virgin martyr Saints
Cecilia, Agnes and Dorothy welcoming the Saint into Heaven. This together with
the sculptural group forms a single monumental unit. The altar on the right,
dedicaded to Saint Stanislas, is decorated with gifts from various novices in
honour of the Saint, who is the patron saint and protector of novices.
On the left there is a fine copy of thd Virgin and Child, known as the "Salus
Populi Romani" from the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. This is one of three
copies commissioned by Francis Borgia (1572), and one to which, legend has it,
that Saint Stanislas was particularly attached.
The first hall
On the walls can be seen a selection of sketches by the Jesuit artist Fra'Andrea Pozzo,
showing episodes from the Saint's brief life.
The second hall
Both the floor, covered with majolica tiles, and the roof date from the
time of the Saint. Note the photocopy of a letter sent from Saint Peter
Canisius to Saint Francis Borgia in 1567. This letter is known as the
letter "of the three Saints", as in it Canisius refers to three young novices
whom he is sending from Vienna to Rome. One of these was Saint Stanislas
about whom he wrote: "an excellent young man, with the great hopes, but we have
not yet received him as a novice because his family was completely against it". A
marble plaque with a Polish poem (commemorating the death of the Saint) recalls
the visit of Cardinal Wyszynski and the Polish bishops during the Second Vatican
The third hall
In the centre of the room is a beautiful statue in polychrome
marbles, sculpted by Legros (1666-1719) showing the death of the Saint.
In the background is a picture by Minardi (1787-1871) showing Our Lady
surrounded by angels and virgin saints and martyrs receiving the Saint
into Heaven. The altar on the right, dedicaded to Saint Stanislas, is
decorated with gifts from various novices to honour the Saint, as patron
saint and protector of novices. The altar on the left has as an
altarpiecd a beautiful copy of the "Borghesiana Virgin", commissioned by
Francis Borgia (1572).