Chiesa del Gesu - History and Facts | History Hit

Chiesa del Gesu

Rome, Lazio, Italy

The Chiesa del Gesu is an historic church in Rome notable for its artistic decorations, particularly its ceiling frescoes, and its place as the centre of the Catholic Jesuit Order.

Peta Stamper

12 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Chiesa del Gesu

The Chiesa del Gesu is an historic church in Rome notable for both its artistic wonders and its place as the centre of the Catholic Jesuit Order. The church’s facade introduced the Baroque style into architecture and served as a model for Jesuit churches all over the world – particularly in the Americas.

Chiesa del Gesu history

The 1551 brainchild of the founder of the Jesuits, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Ignatius himself did not live to see his vision realised. However, the project was driven forward by Ignatius’ successors and, with funding from the powerful Farnese family the majority of the church was complete by 1589, at which point worked stopped after the death of the major benefactor, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese.

In fact, Michelangelo offered to design the church for free out of devotion, but Farnese became benefactor as the grandson of Pope Paul III, who had authorised the founding of the Jesuit Order. It took almost one hundred years for major work on the Chiesa del Gesu to resume, with the addition of the ceiling decorations for which the church is so well known today.

However, with the suppression of the order in the late 18th century, many of the church’s original possessions were lost. It was not until the restoration and further investment in the church in the mid-19th century that the church regained its former glory.

Chiesa del Gesu today

Today, the Chiesa del Gesu continues to be a residence for Jesuit scholars studying at the Gregorian University to prepare for priesthood. Inside the lavish Baroque interior and among the artwork to be found within the Chiesa del Gesu today are a number of stunning frescoes, the famous ceiling paintings – which are said to give the impression that angels are descending from the heavens through the roof – as well as the tomb of Ignatius Loyola.

Getting to Chiesa del Gesu

Found in the Centro Storico district of Rome near the banks of the River Tiber, the Chiesa del Gesu is easily reached on foot or via public transport. The number 8 tram stops at Venezia, only minutes walk from the church.