The Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva: What Is, What Was and What Might Have Been

In a city replete with ornamental baroque (and the occasional medieval Romanesque) facades, the present, rather simple rectangular facade of the thirteenth century papal basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva (so named because it was thought to sit over the old Roman temple of Minerva) might look a little strange, even to modern eyes. Was this facade always so? Well, no. The following illustrations shows the facade as it would have stood in 1588 and 1665 respectively:

For curiosity's sake, I have created a graphically manipulated image that might give an approximation of what that facade would have looked like if it remained so down to our own time. 

Here, for comparison, is the same photo unaltered, showing the present 18th century facade we now know:

Of course, that does not conclude our story. There was consideration in the sane century of modifying the facade like so many others of the churches of Rome to give it a baroque face. The following proposal, dated to 1725, shows a proposed facade by Ferdinando Faga:

What considerations went into the final choice are unknown to me. It is conceivable that it was determined that the baroque facade was not enough in keeping with the gothic interior of the church -- though at one point baroque additions had been added internally; additions since removed. Perhaps it was also felt that the present facade was better in keeping to the original church and that this was important. 

Whatever your opinion on what is, what was and what might have been, one thing is for certain; the facade of the basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva is one of the more unique one's found in the Eternal City. 

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