In 1632, Francesco Borromini became the main architect of Palazzo della Sapienza, the palace of the University of Rome. At that time, the layout of the courtyard of the palace was already defined by Giacomo della Porta, and a circular church with small chapels was planned.
The work on the church began only in 1643, and continued for over twenty years. The first construction phase was from 1643 to 1655. After an interruption, the work resumed in 1659, with the completion of the church, the construction of the Alessandrina Library and the facades of the palace overlooking Piazza Sant’Eustachio and Via dei Canestrari.
The church was consecrated in 1660, although the works continued for a few more years. The library was instead completed after the death of Francesco Borromini.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The church has a large courtyard in front. Its facade is concave, with five blind arches on each of the first two floors. The central arch on the ground floor is occupied by the main portal, while the arch above houses a large window. Besides these, each floor has four rectangular windows.
Above the facade, we can see the higher part of the church, surmounted at the top by the lantern of Sant’Ivo with a spiral shape, and by an iron Cross.
The interior of the church is unique because of the star shape incorporated into the rotunda. The star shape is made of a triangle with its angles cut off, and a smaller triangle with its angles transformed in semi-circles.
The main altar was designed by Giovanni Battista Contini in 1684, and is surmounted by a large canvas, started by Pietro da Cortona and completed by Giovanni Ventura Borghesi after Cortona’s death.
HOW TO GET THERE
The closest Metro station is Spagna, located about 1.4 kilometers away, on the Metro Line A. The closest bus stop is Rinascimento, located right in front of the church, on the bus Lines 30, 70, 81, 87, 492 and 628.
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