Chiesa Sant'Agnese in Agone, Rome
The 17th century Baroque church of Sant'Agnese in Agone was built on the site where the early christian Saint Agnese was martyred, in the ancient Stadium of Domitian. The church was built by the order of Pope Innocent X and was intended to be the family chapel, anexed to the Pope's residence Palazzo Pamphili which is adjacent to the church.
A number of famous architects were involved in the construction of the church, such as Girolamo e Carlo Rainaldi and two of the foremost Baroque architects of the day, Francesco Borromini and and the sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini.
There is interesting story which tells the origins of the name Agone. It was the ancient name for Piazza Navona (Piazza in Agone), coming from Greek and meant "instead" - in the site of the competitions. In Roman times Piazza Navona was stadium for footraces.
“Went to the Piazza Navona, being market-day, in search of prints. The scene here is very amusing; the variety of wares exposed, and the confusion of noises and tongues, and now and then a jackass swelling the chorus with his most exquisite tones.”
from “Samuel F. B. Morse, His Letters and Journals” Wednesday, 7.April.1830
EXQUISITE SIGHT Francesco Borromini’s design for the Church of St. Agnes in Agony (Sant’Agnese in Agone) is exquisite, both inside and out. The church stands on the west side of Piazza Navona. The undulating facade is repeated on the inside. Like all Borromini interiors it lacks decoration; architectural movement carries the eye around this small, chapel-like church. It was built on the order of Pope Innocent X.
I am so happy that it was open and we took the time to visit this very moving space.
Of all the virgin martyrs of Rome, none was placed in such an honored position by the early church as St. Agnes. Since the end of the fourth century her virginity and heroism under torture have been praised.
The name of the church has nothing to do with Our Saint’s tortured martyrdom. St. Agnes met her fate in the Circus of Domitian, now the Piazza Navona. In agone was the ancient name of the area, and meant “in the site of the competitions,” because the Circus of Domitian was an ancient stadium for footraces. Over the years the pronunciation morphed into Navona.
Be certain to take notice of “The Death of St. Agnes” on the church’s high altar. Ercole Ferrata (1610-1686) is responsible for its design and carving.
The church of Sant'Agnese in Agone was built on the Piazza Navona during the 17th century. It was commissioned by Pope Innocent X who also comissioned the Fountain of the Rivers (by Bernini). He choose Bernini’s rival, Francesco Borromini to create this ornate Baroque Church. Legend has it that the Fountain just outside has a figure raising a hand in the direction of the Church to taunt Borromini by questioning the solidity of the Church – it might fall down. Not true. The fountain was built before the Church. It is also the finall resting place of Pope Innocenzo X Pamphili, its patron. It is built on the site where Saint Agnes was martyred in the Circus of Domitian, now the Piazza Navona.
Sant'Agnese in Agone is a 17th century Baroque church dominating Piazza Navona. It was partially the work of the architect Carlo Rainaldi, who also designed Sant'Andrea della Valle and the twin domed churches of Piazza del Popolo. Sant'Agnese was built in honour of Saint Agnes, who was killed in Roman times at the Stadio di Domiziano, today's Piazza Navona. The interior of the church is a beautiful example of Baroque architecture in Rome. Photos are not allowed in the interior (I took mine discreetly with no flash).
Agone (agonistic) is a reference to the races which took place in the Stadium.
The initial plan for Santa Agnese was designed by Girolamo Rainaldi helped by his son Carlo. Work started in 1652, but one year later Francesco Borromini replaced Rainaldi and modified almost entirely the design of the façade, which was expanded to include parts of the Pamphili palace, thus gaining space to erect the two bell towers. Borromini designed also the dome on a high drum.
In 1655 Pope Innocentius X died and soon Borromini lost the support of Prince Camillo Pamphili who recalled Carlo Rainaldi, who completed the façade by 1666. Although Rainaldi modified some aspects of the façade, of the towers and of the dome the overall impression is of consistency in style.
Santa Agnese represented the solution vainly pursued for St Peter's by Bernini and it became a model for having a balance between the dome and the façade of a church. Each of the bell towers has a clock: this occurs also in St Peter's and in SS. Trinità dei Monti. The clocks indicated two different times: the Italian time and the European time (Tempo Ultramontano): W. J. Goethe gave a detailed description of the two practices in his Italienische Reise - September 17, 1786.
Typically, the church has the dove of the Pope everywhere.
Reference text by permission Roberto Piperno for non-commercial purpose only
I think the most symbolic picture i took in Rome in 1994.
The beautiful church of Saint Agnese and the fountain.
Bad and evil looking to a religious statue.
Naked and bidden for mercy - the Madonna will decide !
Most of the statues are inspired by Bernini and made by his assistants.
When we were in Rome, the church was being renovated, so unfortunately we couldn't see as much of it as we had hoped. On top of the facade is a sculpture of Agnes. It was placed there so she could calm down the giant that symbolises the Rio de la Plata on the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi that the church is indeed stable.
St. Agnes was a christian martyr burned alive in 303 ca. A.D. The church, built in the 7th century, has a bizantine style and houses catacombs.
The church of S.ta Agnese in Agone (by Borromini) in Piazza Navona, one of the most beautiful places to visit in Rome. Just in front, the Four River's fountain by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.