Sunday, July 31, 2011

Apotheosis of Saint Ignatius

We owe a lot of the movements of the Catholic Counter Reformation to the Jesuits, who seized the challenge of winning back Protestant heretics to God with much fervor and unmatched zeal. They harnessed the power of the emotions, playing up Baroque theatricality to overwhelm the senses, in an effort to convey, if only an impression, of the stupefying grandeur of God and of His Church. In a sense, the Jesuits, it seems, were the first modern order in the Catholic Church, in that it was they who almost single-handedly changed the way religion was done (a matter which, I think, rightfully deserves a post of its own-- but sometime in the future).

Today being the Feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, I thought I would feature Andrea Pozzo's magnificent Apotheosis of Saint Ignatius, a fresco of gigantic proportions which dominates the nave ceiling of the Chiesa San Ignazio in Roma. Pozzo, an Italian Jesuit brother, had a prodigious talent for harnessing the sheer, unmatched power of emotion, which he employs to a tremendous decree in this fresco. Throughout his life, Pozzo would decorate many churches built by the Jesuits, including Il Gesu, the 'Mother Church' of the Society, in addition to others in Austria, as well as painting the portrait of Cosimo de Medici.

Pozzo's Apotheosis draws much of its splendor in creating the illusion of the church's ceiling 'receding' into infinity, at the center of which is Christ Himself, shown greeting Saint Ignatius.

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