Day 4–Santa Maria della Vittoria
Our virtual tour continues as Langdon and Vittoria speed through Rome. The clue for “fire” leads to the sizzling statue of St. Thersa of Avila, found within the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. The church, never a must-see for first timers to Rome, now draws a lot of traffic. The book fans enter to gaze upon the Cornaro Chapel designed by Bernini as well as his famous piece-The Ecstacy of St. Theresa.
The statue of a prone nun is depicted in a state of ecstatic rapture, symbolically pierced with the love of God via a hovering angel’s arrow. In St Theresa’s own words, ” his great golden spear…filled with fire…plunged into me several times…penetrated to my entrails…a sweetness so extreme that one could not possibly wish it to stop.”
This art work is so sexually explicit Pope Urban VIII ordered it out of the Vatican. The detail on the her face is nothing less than orgasmic. Some visitors are shocked, others thrilled by the physical nature of this young woman, collapsed on a cloud with mouth half open and eyelids closed.
Another unusual thing about the chapel, at least to me, are the inclusion of balconies with voyeurs. Elevated alcoves on either side wall contain marble figures. Some of the men look upon St. Theresa and the angel while others comment to each other. These statues represent real people, Cardinal Francesco Cornaro and Venetian members of the Cornaro family.
When you first enter the ornate 1608-20 Baroque church, the interior is almost blinding; it’s ablaze of color and dancing with glimmering gold. The church is said to be one of the finest examples of this lavish,flamboyant style. The way I remember Baroque style–choke.
Should you find yourself in Rome, hot foot it over to Santa Maria della Vittoria and feel the heat radiating from St. Theresa. Now… ready for last clue now? “Water”