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Pozzo, Saint Ignatius Chapel, Il Gesù

Andrea Pozzo, Saint Ignatius Chapel in the left transept of the church, Il Gesù, Rome (commissioned in 1695). Many artists contributed including Alessandro Algardi, Pierre Legros, Bernardino Ludovisi, Il Lorenzone and Jean-Baptiste Théodon. Materials include bronze, gold, silver, and many semiprecious stones most notably lapis lazuli. Speakers: Frank Dabell, Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

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Video transcript

(music) Man1: This is the Saint Ignatius Chapel, Saint Ignatius of Loyola and in his memory, before he'd actually been proclaimed a saint fully, the church was dedicated and then when he was beatified and then canonized in 1622, another entire church was built with his name, Sant'Ignazio Beth: nearby Man1: This chapel celebrates his relationship to God. It's an explosion of light, precious material, gold, lapis lazuli, silver, bronze and precious marbles. What we see is basically a painting enshrined in a great tabernacle and the painting shows St. Ignatius before God himself. He's kneeling in his black habit before the figure of Christ and he's holding a banner, bright red banner with the name of "Jesus" on it, as it were presenting or supplicating before God to be admitted to Heaven and the most extraordinary thing about this, is that it's actually a theatrical mechanism. In very recent years, this has been restored and is functioning once again and generally speaking at 5:30 p.m. daily, a painting at the combination of a 15-20 minute sound and light show lowers itself. The painting slides down gradually like a piece of theatrical machinery into the ground below the altar Beth: Wow. statue of Saint Ignatius. It's as if to say he has now died and gone to heaven and above the whole figure, (inaudible 1:40) surrounded by angels is an image of the Holy Trinity. So this is Baroque scenery, baroque theatricality at its finest and that they called it a macchina back in those days, a machine. Man2: The entire tabernacle is, even on this dim day, is beautifully illuminated. All of the incredibly reflective qualities of the gold, the semi-precious stones really reflecting light, but if you look at the image itself, it's so interesting because below the main scene you have what's seemed like the presentation of the four main continents, Africa of the new world. Man1: The four corners of the world, as they called them then and in the church of Saint Ignatius, the church a few blocks from here, we have a similar though much larger painting on the ceiling in fresco of that theme of Ignatius' work, the teaching and faith of the Jesuits extending to the four parts of the known world, as they called Africa. Beth: Reminds one that's the era of colonialism and a lot of the money that's coming to the church Man: Indeed, colonialism and evangelization. Man: The statue that's behind is not the original statue, part of it is, but the great solid, silver and gold parts were melted down when Napolean invaded Italy, 1798, also to pay for the troops. They also burned a lot of the tapestries in the Vatican, so they could get the precious gold and silver thread out of them. Man2: This was then remade in the early 19th century and it still stands as a piece of absolutely wonderful precious material. I would add, that between the gilded, bronze shafts of those columns are lots of pieces Beth: Hmm ... It's one of the richest materials that we know. It's still the most expensive color in painting. Michael Angelo used it for painting The Last Judgement ground up. It comes from Afghanistan, but it is also highly expensive. It's three times the price of gold. Beth: Wow Beth: When the painting comes down and the sculpture is revealed, there's also musical accompaniement, right? So, it's a very sensual experience. (music)