Church of Santa Maria del Popolo

- Roma Viva.

Church of Santa Maria del Popolo

Church of Santa Maria del PopoloThere is a legend telling how, in 1099, a small chapel dedicated to Our Lady was built here near Nero's tomb in order to keep the ghost of that terrible emperor at bay. In reality, however, Santa Maria del Popolo was constructed during the Crusades with public money to thank the Virgin for interceding when the Holy Sepulcher was liberated.

The church, managed by the Augustinian order since the end of the 15th century, was completely reconstructed using architectural canons of such rigorous simplicity and harmony that it is considered today one of the most important works of the Renaissance. Behind its plain façade, the interior is enriched with a choir made by Bramante and an extraordinary chapel, the Capella Chigi, one of Raphael's most important architectonic works.
You will find it worthwhile to go down the nave and look into the left hand transept inside the Cappella Cerasi where there are two exceptional masterpieces by Caravaggio: the Conversion of St. Paul and the Crucifixion of St. Peter. Although constrained by the narrowness of the chapel, the great master was nevertheless able to play with the space available and breathe life into the two paintings.
Rebellious and non-conforming as he always was, in the Conversion of St. Paul, Caravaggio utilized the figure of the horse as the main descriptive element in the composition, rendering the Saint less important. In the Crucifixion of St. Peter, the diagonal line which he created by the positioning of the cross demands the viewer to become involved in the painting.
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