Counter-Reformation Churches of Rome: Sant'Andrea della Valle

In our consideration of some of the Roman basilicas and churches that are certainly worth your time on any visit to Rome, we'll take a slightly different turn in this article from the medieval basilicas we have been looking at to date and consider a church that is thoroughly rooted in the counter-reformation and baroque era, namely Sant'Andrea della Valle, a church under the patronage of St. Andrew the Apostle.

The church was constructed beginning in the late 16th century and was completed by around 1663 with the completion of the facade and it presents a very clear and typical example of a church of this period in Rome. In this style, gone are the ciboria and instead we shift toward a non-freestanding altar with retablo and a tabernacle prominently fixed on the centre of high altar -- emphasizing the Real Presence in response to Protestant doubts.

The church is immensely large, and like so many of the great counter-reformation churches of Rome, when one walks through the doors, immediately a grandiose space opens up before you; a larger and much more open space than one might expect when looking at these churches from their street views. 

This particular church puts me to mind of St. Peter's Basilica more than any other in Rome, with its great dome peaking into view from at the crossing of the narthex and transepts, along with the gold gilt Latin text that surrounds the portion of the church where the walls meeting the ceiling.

Perhaps one of the most recognizable pieces of art found within the church would be the great painting of St. Andrew the Apostle being crucified, located above the high altar.

This and the other two paintings located to either side were executed by Mattia Preti, all depicting the martyrdom and burial of the apostle.  These paintings alone make the stop more than worthwhile given bot their quality, their size and the dramatic representation they show. 

Above in the apse are found further depictions from the life of St. Andrew the Apostle. 

The ceiling of the nave also carries an impressive series of frescoes depicting the Immaculate Conception. 

These lead the one toward the great cupola of the church.

The dome painting itself is dated to the early 17th century and depicts the Assumption. 

Various side chapels line the nave as is customary in churches of this generation, and one in particular that might be of interest to our readers is the Cappella Barberini which was commissioned by then Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, the future Pope Urban VIII whose bees and building projects have become so synonymous with modern day Rome. 

If you are one who has a devotion to the apostle St. Andrew, then this is a must see church without a doubt. Similarly, if counter-reformation art and architecture is your thing, also a must see while visiting Rome. For everyone else, it is definitely a church to include on your visits to Rome if you happen to have the time or happen to be walking by.  At least once in your life I would suggest you will at a minimum want to see Preti's gradionse depiction of the crucifixion of St. Andrew. 

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