The church of Saint Louis of the French sits between equi distance between the Pantheon and the piazza Navona.
It is imposing and as something to do with the French we stop by while walking between the beforementioned places.
Completed in 1589, was cardinal Jules de Medici, the future Pope Clement VII, who laid the first stone and it was thanks to the Valois monarchs, Henri III, Catherine de Medici and the Duke Charles III of Lorraine, that its construction could be completed under the direction of cardinal Matthieu Contarelli . It was consecrated the year of its completion as the National Church of the French in Rome.
It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, saint Dionysius the Areopagite and saint Louis King of France. We perceive the French character from the facade where there are several statues Recalling the history of France: Charlemagne, Saint-Louis, sainte Clotilde and sainte Jeanne de Valois, works of Pierre the Estache. The Interior has frescoes telling the story of saint Louis , St. Denis of Paris and Clovis. There is also the François Ier salamander.The Interior, consisting of a nave and two aisles, side chapels and decorated largely in the baroque style by Antoine Derizet, shows a profusion of marble, gilt and stucco. Domenichino painted frescoes telling the legend of St. Cecilia in the second chapel of the nave of right one of his masterpieces. Other artists were in the decoration of Saint-Louis-des-French as the rider of Arpin, Francesco Bassano the younger, Girolamo Muziano, Giovanni Baglione, Siciolante da Sermoneta, Jacopino del Conte, Pellegrino Tibaldi.
However, the most famous of the Church work is undoubtedly the painting cycle decorating the fifth Chapel left the Contarelli Chapel, conducted by Michelangelo Merisi done by the baroque master Caravaggio in 1599-1600 on a command of cardinal Matthieu Contarelli and dedicated to the life of St. Matthew. Three tables illustrate this cycle: to the left the calling of saint Matthew, Saint Matthew and the Angel face and right the martyrdom of saint Matthew.The organ is part of the few fully preserved Joseph Merklin instruments.
The Church, together with the other French churches of Rome, is governed by an administrator appointed by the Ambassador of France to the Holy see in a structure named pious institutions of the France to Rome and Loreto.Saint Louis of the French is also a cardinal title usually borne by the cardinal Archbishop of Paris.
.Adjoining the Church, the Palace of San Luigi dei Francesi, in late baroque style, was built from 1709 to 1716 to be a place of reception of the French religious community and the pilgrims without resources. Its porch shows a bust of Christ whose face is traditionally identified as César Borgia. The Interior includes a gallery of portraits of the Kings of France and a music room celebrating. Burial site to higher prelates and members of the French community of Rome chose her as burial place: you can see the Tomb (erected by her lover Chateaubriand and sculpted by Joseph Charles Marin) of Pauline de Beaumont, who died by consumption in Rome in 1803, the liberal Economist Frédéric Bastiat and that of Cardinal de Bernis ,Ambassador of Louis XV and Louis XVI to the Holy See. The burial place of the painter Claude Gellée said Claude Le Lorrain transferred in 1840 by decision of Thiers. There is also the monumental mausoleum of Louise Cheuvreux-Guillemin (1828-1859), work of the sculptor Charles Gumery, prix de Rome in 1850
a wonderful church and a must to see especially if you like French works.
The church of San Luigi dei Fracesi, the French national church in Rome built in the 16th century by Cardinal Guiliano d’Medici (the former Pope Clement VII) as the seat of his cardinalship. Why French? The cardinal’s neice, Catherine d’Medici, was wife of Henry II, king of France, and she gave money for the building.
The Baroque church interior is rather cheerful with its white marble and gilded stucco, especially when compared to the austere façade on the outside of the building. There are monuments within the church to various people in French history, such as the painter Claude Lemoyne, the French soldiers who died in the siege of Rome, and a commemoration of the king of the Franks conversion to Catholicism (Clovis in AD 496).
But the real treasure in the church can be found in the Contarelli chapel, which is the last chapel to the left of the altar – three paintings by the most important Italian painter during the 1600s – Caravaggio. The three paintings which surround this chapel (one of each of the three walls) show scenes from the life of St. Matthew, as specified in the patron Matteo Contarelli’s will – Matthew was his patron saint and Contarelli was a French cardinal. See my tip on the Carravagio paintings in this church.
The church of San Luigi dei Francesi is open daily from 10-12:30 and 4-7:00. It is located near a secure area of the city – there were many security barriers surrounding the church and men in suits, but we never did figure out what it was – in the Piazza di San Luigi dei Francesi 5, not far from the Piazza Navona.
The church of San Luigi dei Fracesi has three spectacular oil paintings by Caravaggio located in the Contarelli chapel, the last chapel to the left of the altar. The three paintings which surround this chapel (one of each of the three walls) show scenes from the life of St. Matthew, as specified in the patron Matteo Contarelli’s will – Matthew was his patron saint and Contarelli was a French cardinal. They are all painted with Caravaggio’s distinctive realistic style; in fact, his first attempt at the St. Matthew and the Angel was rejected because Matthew looked too lifelike, painted as an older man who had dirty feet!
As you look at the paintings from left to right, they are The Calling of St. Matthew, St. Matthew and the Angel, and on the right, Martyrdom of St. Matthew. To get a good view of the paintings, you can put a euro in the box and have the lights turn on. There is usually a crowd near this chapel, so the lights may already be on when you get there. But they only last a few minutes, so have a euro handy just in case.
Interestingly, the Biblical characters depicted in these paintings are not dressed according to their time period, but rather are dressed as if they were in the time of Caravaggio. In The Calling of St. Matthew, you see men in tights and feathered caps.
Additional paintings by Caravaggio in Rome can be found in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo and in Sant’ Agostino as well as the Villa Borghese (the Borghese were patrons of Caravaggio). Sadly, Caravaggio’s life was cut short at the age of 39 from malaria. A man with a passionate yet violent temper, he got into trouble more than once and had fled Rome to escape the death penalty. He lived in Malta and Sicily where he continued to paint before attempting to return to Rome. It was on this return trip that he died before reaching the city and hoping for a pardon from the pope for a previous crime of murder. He was an influential painter and this influence can be seen in northern painter Rembrandt works as well as Spanish painter Velazquez.
Ironically – since these three works are displayed in the French national church – Caravaggio was deemed “too modern” by the French school of art in the 1800s and his works were rejected for impressionism.
Dedicated to Saint Louis of France, la Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesi is the national church of France in Rome. It is famed for having three of Caravaggio's greatest works, The Calling of St Matthew, The Inspiration of Saint Matthew, and The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew. The Baroque church itself was completed in 1589 by two successive architects, Giacomo della Porta and Domenico Fontana, while the ceiling fresco was painted by Domenichino in the early 17th century. The church is located near Piazza Navona in central Rome.
“I stepped into the church of San Luigi dei Francesi, in the Via di Ripetta. It was built, I believe, by Catherine di Medici. There are many tombs and monuments of French people, both of the past and present, artists, soldiers, priests, and others, who have died in Rome. … I found it peculiarly touching to read the records, in Latin or French, of persons who had died in this foreign land, though they were not my own country-people, and though I was even less akin to them than they to Italy. Still, there was a sort of relationship in the fact that neither they nor I belonged here.”
— from the 1858 “French and Italian Note-Books” of Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)
ALL IN THE FAMILY Mr. Hawthorne was misinformed. It was Giulio Cardinal de’Medici (later Pope Clement VII) uncle of Catherine de’Medici, Queen of France, who commissioned this church for Rome’s French community in 1518. It has been the French National Church since its completion in 1589.
Within the lower two niches of the church’s travertine facade are Charlemagne (see photo #3), crowned in Rome as the first Holy Roman Emperor, and the church’s patron, St. King Louis IX of France (see photo #2), killed in the eighth Crusade in 1270. The heraldic symbol of François I, a salamander, is carved beneath each niche.
Caravaggio’s late 16th-century St. Matthew Cycle, three paintings tell the story of significant events in St. Matthew’s life, can be found here in the Contarelli Chapel. The Chapel is located on the left-hand side of the church up toward the main altar. The three paintings are on the chapel's left-hand wall, ‘Martirio di San Matteo’ (The Martyrdom of St. Matthew); ‘Vocazione di San Matteo’ (The Calling of St. Matthew) on the chapel’s altar wall facing out to the viewer; and ‘San Matteo e l'Angelo’ (St. Matthew and the Angel) on the right-hand wall. This is a very popular attraction; get there early. Lighting is low; therefore conditions for photo taking are poor, DO NOT USE FLASH!
Please remember this is a church, a place of worship; men remove your hats; please keep talking low, if at all.
Visiting hours are Friday through Wednesday 07:00 to 12:30 and 15:30 to 19:00
Inside this church (in the last altar on the left) you'll find three paintings by Caravaggio including the famous 'The Calling of St. Matthew' in which the artist depicts Christ in a normal, everday setting, a pub.
Be prepared to bring some loose change in order to light up the altar. When I was there, the machine did not yet take Euros, so if you can locate some Lira it would be helpful.
A renaissance church of the French community in Rome (therefore: "Francesi"), one of the most beautiful churches in Rome (it even features a few Caravaggio paintings).