Between anecdote and art, the marvelous dome of the basilica of Sant’Andrea della valle

of Gianluca Pica

One of the most beautiful basilicas of Rome, no doubts, is that of Sant’Andrea della Valle. It is located at Corso Vittorio Emanuele II but it is surely famous for its architectonic and artistic beauties, mainly the fresco which embellishes the dome. Not only it is the tallest one in Rome after the dome of St Peter’s Basilica and that one of the St Peter and Paul Basilica at the Eur quarter, but it became a real model. Why? Let’s discover it.

First of all let me tell how the Basilica of Sant’Andrea della Valle was inaugurated at the beginning of the XVII century, even if the site construction began at the 1591.

Very important masters worked here, trying to embellish this wonderful church that still today, since the beginning, is managed by the religious order of the Teatini. For example, let me remind you two artists who worked here: Domenichino and Lanfranco. I will explain you something about them, but first let me remind you that this church is a model for the Counter Reformation of Rome, when several things changed for the art and the culture. Mainly  about art this new process found by the Holy Church provoked several changes and debates, and Domenichino and Lanfranco are able to show them. Both came from the same studio, that one owned by Annibale Carracci who, at the end of the XVI century, became the prototype of the master. But even if both had the same education they worked in a different way, chosen different styles and leanings. Here, inside the Basilica of Sant’Andrea della Valle, it will be easy to understand why.

cupola lanfranco

So try to get in, being inspired by the beauty of this church. Try to see the details of the plaster decorations, but also the nice chapels that are flanking the nave. Then go until the dome and look up, where you will see the masterpiece frescoed by Lanfranco, who decorated the dome. You will be astonished by all the figures that are moving between lights and clouds, biblical characters such as Mary (the fresco is dedicated to her and her ascension). Basically it seems that the painted figures are flying! The dome looks so light but especially broken, because of the perspective and the optical effect created by this amazing painting. Here Lanfranco abandoned the classicism embracing a new leaning, embracing the spectacular dynamism that was typical for the Baroque art. In this masterpiece Lanfranco became a sort of pioneer. But now try to look just below the dome, where four massive figures are located at the corners. They are the four evangelists made by Domenichino, the Lanfranco’s rival. He was forces to paint in a very tiny and delimitated space, of course. But it is also true that, on the other side, the Evangelists by Domenichino don’t express the same strenght, the same charged and loaded of the Lanfranco’s masterpiece. Domenichino is more academic, and it was the reason why they usually argued! Probably Domenichino would like to have the same approval had by Lanfranco, maybe he simply thought that his rival painted in a very bad way because he didn’t follow the rules, who knows. What we know is that one day, according to a tradition, Domenichino tried to destroy the scaffolding where Lanfranco was working.

He fell down but, good for him, he survived! How many things could the jealousy do…

Guide of  – Gianluca Pica

Gianluca Pica

Eyes of Rome
My name is Gianluca and I'm a professional and local tour guide in Rome. I feel very lucky because thanks to my job and my passion I have the opportunity to share with you the beauty of Rome. Moreover I…
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