The Church of Saint Louis of the French (San Luigi dei Francesi) is a Roman Catholic church near Pantheon and Piazza Navona. It is a small church in city center of Rome, just between the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. The church was built in dedication of Virgin Mary, Saint Denis and the King of France, Louis IX. King Louis IX was also the patron saint of the Catholic Church. It is Roman national church and also a titular church.
Certainly, The Church of Saint Louis is of great historic significance. A few of them would be;
Art and Architecture:
- Church houses the statues and paintings of national heroes and saints such as Charlemagne, King Clovis, Saint Clotilde etc.
- The design of the church is based on the Baroque style of architecture.
- The architecture of the church was designed by the architect Giacomo della Porta and the construction was carried by Domenico Fontana.
- Elevation of the church was redesigned by the two. It is completely different from what Jean de Chenevière designed initially.
- Edifice is a french delight for the art.
- Church’s facade has the statues Charlemagne, St. Louis, St. Clothilde and St. Jeanne of Valois.
- On the entrance door, an organ is carved by Joseph Merklin in 1881. The organ has three manuals of 56 notes and pedals of 30 notes with Barker pneumatic transmission: a real jewel.
- The interior of the church is divided into three naves with five chapels on each side.
- Inside the church, there are frescoes from Charles-Joseph Natoire narrating the stories of Saint Louis IX, Saint Denis & Clovis.
- In the Polet Chapel, there is a fresco of Saint Cecilia frescoed by Domenichino.
- In the chapels there are artworks by Caravaggio, Domenichino, Cavalier d’Arpino and more.
The history of the church roots from 898AD. In the year 898, in Rome, Saracens (Arab Muslims) burnt the Abbey of Farfa. Abbot Ratfredus then later rebuilt the abbey. Towards the end of the 10th century, the Abbey owned Roman churches, houses, windmills and vineyards. One of the three churches owned by the abbey was church of Santa Maria. In the year 1480, the church of Santa Maria became the church of Saint Louis of the French by the Medici family after taking control of the property.
Later in 1518, Jean de Chenevière was hired by Cardinal Giulio di Giuliano de’ Medici in order to build a church for the French community. Jean de Chenevière designed an octagonal design for the church and started the construction in the same year itself. It took 70+ years to built the church (1518-1589 AD) including the crisis in 1527 that put the work on hold. Queen of France Caterina de Medici came to the aid of the church and helped in resuming the work by her financial donations. Domenico Fontana and Giacomo della Porta were later brought in to complete the construction of the church. Construction of the church completed in the year 1589 and the church was then consecrated by Cardinal François de Joyeuse, Protector of France.
Of the above mentioned chapels in the church, there is one Contarelli Chapel. Contarelli Chapel was named after Cardinal Mathieu Cointrel and later renamed as Contarelli Chapel (sounding more Italian). Cardinal Mathew Cointrel was the one to recruit Michelangelo Merisi for the three altarpieces of Saint Matthew. The three altarpieces of Saint Matthew being The Calling of St Matthew (on the left wall), The Inspiration of Saint Matthew (above the altar), and The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew (on the right wall). The above three canvases are considered as the masterpieces of Carvaggio, famously known as Triptych by Caravaggio. It is can be said that the church is also famous for the Triptych by Caravaggio. The three walls were painted by Caravaggio between 1598 – 1601.
Michelangelo Merisi a.k.a Carvaggio was a famous artist of Renaissance Era. He was a brilliant artist but a murderer too, giving him the title of the murderer artist. He was violent and a heavy drinker who murdered a man in 1606 which led him to leave Rome and all his artwork behind.
The Church of Saint Louis is also the burial ground for some. To name a few would be;
- The tomb of Pauline de Beaumont, built by his lover, François-Rene de Chateaubriand
- The tomb of Cardinal François-Joachim de Pierre de Bernis, ambassador of king Louis XV and Louis XVI.
- The classic liberal economist Frédéric Bastiat.
- The sculptor Pierre Le Gros the Younger.
Image source: Google