Rome: Church of Gesu ( The Jesuit Church )
About the Gesu Church:
This Church, sometimes called the “Gesu Church” is the Mother Church the Society of Jesus (the Jesuit order), founded by Saint Ignantius of Loyola. It is perhaps a hidden gem in this city of over 800 Churches and well worth a visit. It was built for the Society of Jesus by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese and consecrated in 1584. The church has served as model for hundreds of future Jesuit churches all over the world.
The church was consecrated by Cardinal Giulio Antonio Santorio, the delegate of pope Gregory XIII, on November 25, 1584.
Now that we have a Jesuit Pope, it will no doubt gain popularity among pilgrims.
The ceiling of the Church is an optical illusion: it looks like a dome, but it is not—it is painted to look like one and is a center of attention.
In addition to the magnificent frescoes on the ceiling and the wonderful architecture, it is also home to several interesting aspects of Catholic history.
As you enter the Church you will find the a reliquary containing the right arm of St. Francis Xavier, who was co-founder of the Jesuits (and with this arm baptized an estimated 300,000 people). He came here on foot after his missionary journeys to France and Spain, and ended up dying in the arms of Saint Ignatius. He was proclaimed a saint March 12, 1622 by Pope Gregory XV. The rest of his body is entombed in Goa, India.
The largest of the chapels houses the tomb of Saint Ignatius and is naturally the main point of interest in the Church.
Many of those visiting the Gesu Church are unaware of the fact that the house next door is the where Saint Ignatius lived for 17 years and where wrote the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus (the original copy is on display here).
Only four rooms remain of the original building, built in 1543, since much of it was destroyed in a flood of the Tiber River in 1598. But you can tour these rooms which see some of his original furniture (the desk he used actually belonged to St. Francis Xavier), a bust of Saint Ignatius and some of his personal affects. The bust is what is called a “death mask”, taken especially of someone considered holy at the time of his death.
Connected to the room where he did his writing is a small chapel, built over the room where he died. If you are traveling with a priest you can also make arrangements to say Mass here in this small chapel, which contains the desk used by Saint Ignatius.
Another chapel, dedicated to Saint Joachim, holds the tomb of Saint Robert Bellarmine, a leading figure in the Catholic Counter-Reformation who strongly supported the self-reform decrees of the Council of Trent. During his lifetime he was regarded as one of the most enlightened of theologians and was named a doctor of the church by Pope Pius XI in 1931. He is one of the patron saint of catechists and catechumens. We celebrate the Feast of Robert Bellarmine on September 17.
Also entombed in the church is Saint Rose Venerini, M.P.V, who founded the Religious Teachers Venerini, and beginning in 1685, founded schools throughout Italy, receiving an important endorsement from Pope Clement XI in 1716. After that, many Bishops requested schools to be established by her order.
There is also a chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and a painting of her as “Our Lady of the Streets”. This title implies that she was a common woman not of high birth. Within this chapel are statues of her parents, Saint Anne and Saint Joachim.
Here is an interesting video on Facebook by Father Leo Patalinhug describing a bit more about the Church of the Jesu and the chapel of “Our Lady of the Streets”.
Finding the Gesu Church in Rome:
Address: Chiesa del Gesù, Via degli Astalli, 16, 00186 Roma
GPS coordinates: 41° 53′ 45.3264” N, 12° 28′ 47.5032” E
Tel: (+39) 06 69 70 0
email: use the contact form on their website
Click here for the official website of the Church of the Gesu in Rome.