Basilica di Santa Maria del Popolo (Basilica of Saint Mary of the People & Cerasi Chapel), Rome

Basilica di Santa Maria del Popolo (Basilica of Saint Mary of the People & Cerasi Chapel), Rome

This early Renaissance church, believed to be the burial site of Nero according to legend, was commissioned by Pope Sixtus IV della Rovere in 1472. Underwent a Baroque transformation in the 17th century under the guidance of Bernini, it became a favored resting place for the wealthy inhabitants of Rome and is renowned as a treasure trove of artistic riches.

Within its walls, Raphael designed the Chigi Chapel, a centralized octagonal structure, and adorned its dome with mosaics depicting the Creation of the World.

In the left transept of the basilica, the Cerasi Chapel, also known as the Chapel of the Assumption, steals the spotlight. It is embellished with two grand Baroque canvases by Caravaggio—the "Conversion of Saint Paul" and the "Crucifixion of Saint Peter"—making them both crucial masterpieces not only within the church but also in Western art as a whole. Another notable artwork in the chapel is the "Assumption of the Virgin" by Annibale Carracci, an esteemed master of Italian Baroque.

Caravaggio's paintings, characterized by dramatic lighting and foreshortening, are meant to be viewed from an angle rather than head-on. They attract attention towards Carracci's frontal presentation of the Assumption, effectively uniting the chapel aesthetically despite the contrasting styles of the two artists. The light in Caravaggio's paintings emanates from the painted heavenly vault in the anteroom, where the dove representing the Holy Spirit resides.

The chapel itself exudes exuberant Baroque style. The frescoes on the short barrel-vault of the chancel depict the Coronation of the Virgin in the central medallion and the visions of Saints Peter and Paul, including "Domine Quo Vadis" and "Saint Paul Transported to the Third Heaven", in the side panels. These paintings are framed by opulent gilded stucco. Executed by Innocenzo Tacconi, an assistant of Annibale Carracci, the frescoes also feature a coronation scene personally painted by Carracci himself.

Tip:
Outside, in the piazza, make sure not to miss the sculpture of Neptune with his trident. Additionally, the Museo Leonardo da Vinci features a number of Leonardo's inventions built to scale, some of which can be operated by the public.

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Rome. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Basilica di Santa Maria del Popolo (Basilica of Saint Mary of the People & Cerasi Chapel) on Map

Sight Name: Basilica di Santa Maria del Popolo (Basilica of Saint Mary of the People & Cerasi Chapel)
Sight Location: Rome, Italy (See walking tours in Rome)
Sight Type: Religious
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in Rome, Italy

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