Sant'Ignazio di Loyola ☆☆☆

The nave and Pozzo's frescoes, Sant'Ignazio di Loyola, Rome, Italy (Photo by sarahtarno)
The nave and Pozzo's frescoes

The "dome" in this church is a masterpiece of trompe-l'oeil

Piazza Sant'Ignazio

Before you even go into this amazingly frescoed baroque/rococo Jesuit church tucked in the heart of Rome, take a moment to sit on the steps and just look around the tiny sqaure before you. It is like being on a baroque stage set.

The Piazza Sant'Ignazio in front of the church of St. Ignazio di Loyola is a theater set of buildings laid out by Raguzzini in a late baroque/early rococo style.

The ceiling fresco

Inside the church—designed by the Jesuit mathematician Orazio Grassi, who modeled it after plans by Carlo Maderno—the sense of theater continues.

First of all, attention must be paid to the ceiling of the nave overhead. It is breathtakingly, dizzyingly, swimmingly decorated in a riotous, colroful, and amazingly masterful tromp l’oeil 1685 fresco depicting St. Ignatius and his Works by perhaps the greatest baroque master of perspective there ever was, Andrea Pozzo (who was himself a lay brother of the Jesuit order).

Tear your eyes away from it long enough to find the first marble disc set in the floor of the nave, then look back up. This is the spot from which the perspective is deigned to all line up and cause the ceiling to literally seem to extend right up into the heavens.

Even if this sort of painting isn't your cup of art-appreciation tea, it is quite impressive simply as a technical feat in of itself.

The "dome" of the church of Sant'Ignazio

Now continue down the nave to the second marble disc set in the floor and take a look at the dome over the crossing up ahead, dimly illuminated by a golden light. Now keep walking toward the transept, but keep your eye on that "dome."

The closer you get, the odder and odder it looks.

That's because it isn't a dome at all.

It's actually another masterpiece of trompe-l'oeil, painted on a flat surface by Andrea Pozzo, on canvas this time.

On sunny days, the illusion is quite effective; if its cloudy outside, the inside of the "dome" with sunlight "streaming in" will look a bit funny.

(Sadly, the original "dome" painting was destroyed in 1891 and this is a replacement; I can only imagine—given Pozzo's talent for this sort of thing—that the original was even more spectacularly illusory).

Pozzo also painted the frescoes of the Apotheosis of St. Ignatius in the apse, and the ceiling Assumption in the left transept.

Photo gallery
  • The nave and Pozzo
  • Piazza di Sant
  • The facade, Sant'Ignazio di Loyola, Italy (Photo by Cezar Suceveanu)
  • The transept with Andrea Pozzo
  • The tromp l
  • An (actual) frescoed dome, Sant'Ignazio di Loyola, Italy (Photo by Renato Torii)
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How long does Sant'Ignazio di Loyola take?

You can wander the church in a quick 15–20 minutes.

Free tours

This chruch offers free guided tours September through July, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays between 3pm and 6pm.

Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah

* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).