Rome’s Riches: Three Jewel Boxes and a Fountain

P1110403Sant’Antonio dei Portoghesi

On a glorious Friday morning (no rain!) near the end of March I set out for my Italian class. I took my usual route through Piazza Farnese, Campo de’ Fiori, and Piazza Navona, and as I passed the beautiful, tiny church of Sant’Antonio dei Portoghesi in tiny Campo Marzo, I noticed that the door was open. I’ve never seen that door open, so I couldn’t resist going in. The national church of the Portuguese people, this church is dedicated to St. Anthony of Lisbon. I circled the interior of this little jewel box for 10 minutes or so. I especially liked the neoclassic monument to Alexandre de Sousa Holstein, which was sculpted by Antonio Canova in 1806. I made it to class on time, but this find inspired me to go exploring!

P1110410Fontana del Mosè (Fountain of Moses)

The day before this surprising turn of events, I had finished the blog post on the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and was chomping at the bit to see Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Therese, so after class I headed toward Quirinale. I walked up Via del Tritone to Piazza Barberini and turned right. I trudged up the hill and ended up at the Quattro Fontane. You may recall that I’d never heard of these four fountains until last month, and there they were again! Life is like that.

I turned left on Via XX Settembre and walked for a couple of blocks. I spotted St. Teresa’s church, Santa Maria della Vittoria, and as I headed that way, I noticed a huge fountain across the street from the church. I’d never heard of this fountain, Fontana del Mosè, which is the terminus of the Acqua Felice aqueduct, the first new aqueduct of early modern Rome. The fountain, designed by Domenica Fontana (fittingly, since fontana means “fountain”!), was completed in 1586.

P1110430Wiki makes this harsh observation about the fountain: “Even in the 17th century this fountain was considered as being in very bad style,” Siegfried Giedion reported, “and it is scarcely conceivable that such mediocrity was possible only two decades after the death of Michelangelo.” Okay, so the fountain isn’t great, but I love those lions!

Ecstasy of St. Therese

Ecstasy of St. Therese

Santa Maria della Vittoria

Several tourist groups and I arrived at the church at the same time. I made a beeline for the Ecstasy, dropped 50 centissimi into the lightbox (that always makes me feel so powerful!), and stepped back to stare.

The somewhat small statue is placed high on the wall in the church, and it isn’t easy to see. That surprised me. St. Teresa’s ecstasy itself did not surprise me, because I’ve read articles about and seen photos of it. Some believe the ecstasy is spiritual; others believe it is sensual. You can decide for yourself. No matter what, Bernini’s statue is fascinating and feels a bit violent.

I stood right in front of the statue until “my” light went out, much to the dismay of the tour leaders who wanted to crowd me out of there. I then sighed happily and looked around the rest of the beautiful church—my second jewel box of the day.

P1110434St. Paul’s within the Walls

As I left the church, I could see the enormous Piazza della Republicca in front of me. I walked to the piazza and turned west to walk home via Via Nazionale. A couple of blocks down the hill from the piazza I saw a familiar-looking building and bell tower and realized that I had stumbled onto the Episcopal church of St. Paul’s within the Walls, which had long been on my list of things to see. Built in 1873 after the unification of Italy, St. Paul’s was the first non-Roman Catholic church in Rome. Before the unification, Rome was governed by the Vatican, which banned non-Catholic churches, but Italian law permitted freedom of religion, and Rome had to comply.

With its alternating brick and travertine exterior, St. Paul’s resembles the green-and-white striped churches of Tuscany. In the interior the incredible mosaics by Edward Burne-Jones in the apse and the choir and George Breck on the rear wall make this jewel box worth a visit if you’re in the neighborhood.

Ciao!

Sant’Antonio dei Portoghesi - exterior on a stormy day

Sant’Antonio dei Portoghesi – exterior on a stormy day

Sant’Antonio dei Portoghesi - detail above the entrance

Sant’Antonio dei Portoghesi – detail above the entrance

Sant’Antonio dei Portoghesi - inside the dome

Sant’Antonio dei Portoghesi – inside the dome

Sant’Antonio dei Portoghesi - side chapel

Sant’Antonio dei Portoghesi – side chapel

Sant’Antonio dei Portoghesi - side chapel

Sant’Antonio dei Portoghesi – side chapel

Sant’Antonio dei Portoghesi - stained glass window

Sant’Antonio dei Portoghesi – stained glass window

Santa Maria della Vittoria - exterior

Santa Maria della Vittoria – exterior

Santa Maria della Vittoria - interior

Santa Maria della Vittoria – interior

Santa Maria della Vittoria - main altar

Santa Maria della Vittoria – main altar

Santa Maria della Vittoria - ceiling

Santa Maria della Vittoria – ceiling

Santa Maria della Vittoria - dome in a side chapel

Santa Maria della Vittoria – dome in a side chapel

Santa Maria della Vittoria - side chapel

Santa Maria della Vittoria – side chapel

St. Paul’s within the Walls - exterior

St. Paul’s within the Walls – exterior

St. Paul’s within the Walls - rear wall with Breck's mosaics

St. Paul’s within the Walls – rear wall with Breck’s mosaics

St. Paul’s within the Walls - Breck's mosaics in the rear of the church

St. Paul’s within the Walls – Breck’s mosaics in the rear of the church

St. Paul’s within the Walls - Burne-Jones's mosaics in the apse

St. Paul’s within the Walls – Burne-Jones’s mosaics in the apse

St. Paul’s within the Walls - Burne-Jones's mosaics in the apse

St. Paul’s within the Walls – Burne-Jones’s mosaics in the apse

St. Paul’s within the Walls - interior ceiling

St. Paul’s within the Walls – interior ceiling

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2 Responses to Rome’s Riches: Three Jewel Boxes and a Fountain

  1. Nikki says:

    beautiful — absolutely beautiful and you know how I love a church!!! The side alters are more beautiful than I can even describe — the main alters are incredible!!!

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