dintorni

Santa Maria della Vittoria

The church of Santa Maria della Vittoria is quintessential Baroque. The interior is overwhelming and to modern eyes the abundance of decoration can seem extravagant. No surface is left undecorated: everywhere you look you see colorful pilasters and columns, gilded stucco, marble reliefs, dynamic statues and vibrant paintings.

The church was built between 1608 and 1620 to a design by Carlo Maderno for cardinal Scipione Borghese. The facade was built later, in 1626, by Giovanni Battista Soria.

The Victorious Mary

The church was originally dedicated to Saint Paul. In 1622, two years after the Catholics defeated the Bohemian army at White Mountain, the church was dedicated to Mary and renamed Saint Mary of Victory to commemorate this decisive victory during the Thirty Years’ War.

The victory over the protestant Bohemians was attributed to a small statue of Mary that, Catholics claimed, assisted Emperor Ferdinand in his victory over the army of Frederick V. When the statue was later discovered in the ruins of a castle in Plzeň, it was brought here. In 1833 the statue was destroyed in a fire and replaced with a replica that is now above the altar, surrounded by a cloud and radiating gilded sun rays.

Turkish standards captured at the 1683 siege of Vienna hang in the church, as part of this theme of victory.

White Mountain, NOVEMBER 8, 1620

On a cool November afternoon, a sixty-one year-old general Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, stood on a low, treeless plateau just outside the bustling imperial city of Prague.  Before him, thousands of protestant dead littered the battlefield.  The moans and screams called forth by the pike, sword, and musket wounds, and the smell of gunpowder from the cannon filled the air.  Having lasted just over an hour, the engagement had seemed like more of a skirmish than a battle to the veteran commander, but it’s repercussions would prove to last much, much longer than any battle the general had previously commanded.   Near Tilly stood an ambitious, but still unknown German-Bohemian nobleman by the name of Albrecht von Wallenstein, while in the ranks of his victorious Catholic army that was just now mopping up the fight,  was a young French military observer, Rene Descartes.  God had that day delivered the righteous a swift victory, and had cast the Protestant heretics into exile; the revolt of the Bohemian estates had been dealt a death-blow.  Little did Tilly, Wallenstein, or Descartes know that the Battle of White Mountain would both secure Catholic Habsburg domination of Bohemia for next three hundred years, and spread the Bohemian Revolt into the myriad German states that comprised the Holy Roman Empire, beginning the most destructive and the deadliest  war in European history, the Thirty Years’ War.

The Ecstasy of Teresa

The church was part of a convent of the Carmelites, an order that was reformed by the Spanish saint Teresa of Avila. Teresa was a prominent figure of the counter-reformation.

Bernini’s famous sculpture was commissioned by Cardinal Federico Cornaro of Venice in 1647 for his burial chapel in Santa Maria della Vittoria, replacing the previous sculpture showing St. Paul in Ecstasy. In 1645-1652 the great Bernini created a marble sculpture group for the chapel, entitled ‘The Ecstasy of Teresa’. Bernini records a scene that was described by Teresa in her memoirs. In a particular passage, Teresa claims to have had a vision in which a beautiful angel appeared to her and pierced her with a golden arrow.

The Commission: 
Bernini’s famous sculpture was commissioned by Cardinal Federico Cornaro of Venice in 1647 for his burial chapel in Santa Maria della Vittoria, replacing the previous sculpture showing St. Paul in Ecstasy.

Bernini’s masterpiece

The Ecstasy of St. Theresa is considered by many as the apogee of Bernini’s oeuvre and is notable for the following qualities;

Bernini’s St. Theresa is often described as a Gesamtkunstwerk (a German word meaning “total work of art”) for the artist’s incorporation of a variety of elements: sculpture, painting, and lighting effects all presented in a theatrical setting.

The Ecstasy of St. Theresa is not just a sculpture, but a total environment: Bernini designed the entire chapel, creating a veritable stage set complete with sculpted audience members.

Although some art historians insist that Bernini could not possibly have intended to imbue this subject with an erotic energy, as that would have been inconceivably heretical for that time, in reality the concupiscent implications of this work are unmistakable: the beautiful, bare-chested young angle gently opens Theresa’s dress, preparing to penetrate her with his arrow, while the saint throws back her head with an expression of ecstasy.

The sensuality of the piece is directly inspired by St. Theresa’s own writings, in which she describes her mystical experiences in overtly erotic terms;

Baroque grandeur: 

Even more so than in his previous works, in The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa Bernini takes the principles of the Baroque (drama, emotion, theatricality) to unknown heights. Note the emphasis on the dramatic qualities of light, as well as the virtuoso and utterly fantastic mass of fluttering draperies.

A stunning display incorporating architecture, sculpture, and painting, the Theresa was adored in Bernini’s lifetime but later harshly criticized for its overt sensuality and eroticism.

Yet, the wild success of this work immediately revived Bernini’s career, and the artist experienced continuing success and popularity until his death in 1680.

Bernini was one of the most admired and sought-after of artists, with the highest of reputations. Italian and French contemporaries praised the artist with detailed biographies, sure of the genius in their midst. Naturally Bernini had his fair share of devoted followers. From contemporaries who worked directly under him or competed with him for commissions, up to modern artists who looked to his use of emotional multimedia design for inspiration, a multitude of artists can thank Bernini for the development of their own styles.

Though the Baroque and Bernini along with it went out of fashion for a long period of time, in the 20th century he was “rediscovered” as a true master of realism and emotion, earning a renewed respect and influence on a new generation of artists, which continues up until this day.

Bernini was one of the most admired and sought-after of artists, with the highest of reputations. Italian and French contemporaries praised the artist with detailed biographies, sure of the genius in their midst. Naturally Bernini had his fair share of devoted followers. From contemporaries who worked directly under him or competed with him for commissions, up to modern artists who looked to his use of emotional multimedia design for inspiration, a multitude of artists can thank Bernini for the development of their own styles.

Though the Baroque and Bernini along with it went out of fashion for a long period of time, in the 20th century he was “rediscovered” as a true master of realism and emotion, earning a renewed respect and influence on a new generation of artists, which continues up until this day.