Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Rome

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  • interior of Santa Maria sopra Minerva
    interior of Santa Maria sopra Minerva
    by mindcrime
  • Santa Maria sopra Minerva
    Santa Maria sopra Minerva
    by zadunajska8
  • Santa Maria sopra Minerva
    Santa Maria sopra Minerva
    by zadunajska8
  • goodfish's Profile Photo

    St. Mary and the Goddess

    by goodfish Updated May 15, 2013

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    Yet another St. Mary's.

    This one was built on top of the ruins of a Roman temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva (thus the funny name) and is the only Gothic-style church in Rome. The current basilica dates from 13th/14th centuries, has wonderful interior vaulting of sky blue with gold stars, and excellent frescoes by Filippino Lippi. Interred here are St. Catherine of Siena (minus her head, which is, you guessed it, in Siena), Popes Paul IV, Leo X and Clement VII, and famous Renaissance painter, Fra Angelico. Here also are Michelangelo's sculpture of Christ the Redeemer (with the later addition of some drapery to cover the naughty bits), the Bernini-designed tomb of Cardinal Pimentel, and a plethora of other interesting works of art.

    Out in the piazza is Pulcino della Minerva: a fat little elephant with an obelisk on his back. The obelisk was one of a pair brought from Egypt and was discovered in the ruin of an ancient temple of Isis near the basilica. Bernini designed the sculpture for Pope Alexander VII and it carries this inscription:

    "He who sees the carved images of the wisdom of Egypt on the obelisk carried by the elephant, the strongest of animals, will realize that it is indeed a robust mind which sustains a solid wisdom."

    Pulcino della Minerva translates to "Minerva's Chick." It had been nicknamed "Porcino della Minerva" (Minerva's Piggy) by amused locals, and confusion around the similar pronunciation of pig and chicken may have run 'afowl'? HA! It may also be a nod to the diminutive size of the obelisk as it's the shortest of the 11 imported from Egypt.

    Entrance is free; visiting info:
    http://www.060608.it/en/cultura-e-svago/luoghi-di-culto-di-interesse-storico-artistico/chiese-cattoliche/santa-maria-sopra-minerva.html

    PS: - The relic in altar of the Pius V Chapel (5th photo) is Santa Wittoria: an obscure child martyr that I could find no information about.

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  • zadunajska8's Profile Photo

    Very atmospheric - a step from the Pantheon

    by zadunajska8 Written Oct 23, 2011

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    We visited this church just after the Pantheon (it is literally about 2 minutes from the Pantheon's entrance) and we were very pleasantly suprised to find this was another gem. It was a lot quieter than the Pantheon but still had a fair few tourists in there so not quite "off the beaten track", but it is quiet (which is often a delight to find in central Rome!). It's a much darker space inside than many of the other churches in Rome but this helps to create the peaceful atmosphere inside. There is also a famous work by Bernini in the square outside, but sadly this was surrounding by scaffolding and barriers when we visited as it was undergoing restoration.

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  • mindcrime's Profile Photo

    S. Maria sopra Minerva piazza & church

    by mindcrime Written Mar 20, 2011

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    piazza della Minerva
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    Just before we reach the Pantheon we came across the piazza della Minerva(pic 1). At the centre of the square is a sculpture of an elephant! The marble monument was erected in 1667 by the artist Gianlorenzo Bernini(1598-1680) and has an obelisk(from 6th century BC) atop it!! There’s inscription is about the great strength is required to bear wisdom.

    There are some nice buildings but the one we checked was the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva (pic 2). It’s minor three-aisled basilica belongs to the Dominican order and it was built on the site that once was the temple of Minerva. Although the construction begun in 1280 it was completed in 1453. The church is the only gothic church in Rome although different styles added after the numerous renovations through the centuries (the facafe was in typical baroque style at the beginning).

    When we got inside(pics 3-4) we noticed the gothic arches and then we checked the side chapels, some of them have some interesting frescos from 15th century but also Michelangelo’s marble statue of the Risen Christ. I forgot to take a picture of it because there were other visitors in front of us so when I remembered about it we were already away!)

    The church is open daily 8.00-19.00

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  • Tijavi's Profile Photo

    Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

    by Tijavi Updated Dec 12, 2009

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    A sculpture of Christ
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    Boasting works by Michelangelo, Bernini and Filippino Lippi, this church is one of the few gothic-themed in Rome. It is the turf of the Dominicans famous (or infamous?) for their inquisitions and the trial of Galileo.

    Even if you are not a big fan of the Dominicans (their infamy during the Spanish occupation in the Philippines makes for interesting read, to put it lightly), their Santa Maria sopra Minerva will awe you with their artistic collection including a sculpture of the Risen Christ by Michelangelo (picture 3), Filippino Lippi's frescoes, and the very interesting sculpture of an obelisk-carrying elephant by Bernini at the church's piazza (picture 4). On top of these, the church contains the tombs of popular Italian saints Santa Cecilia of Siena and Fra Angelico.

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  • von.otter's Profile Photo

    The Chick of Minerva: Cutest Art Work in Rome

    by von.otter Updated Jun 10, 2009

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    The Chick of Minerva, Roma, May 2007
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    “A strong mind is needed to support a solid knowledge.”
    — Pope Alexander VII (1599-1667) his allegorical phrase on one side of the base of the Chick of Minerva

    AN ELEPHANT NEVER FORGETS Here’s what this one remembers. It was the idea of that brilliant Baroque sculpture, designer, and architect Gianlorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) to decorate the Piazza della Minerva with his sculpture, affectionately known to Romans as the Chick of Minerva, Pulcino della Minerva.

    The design is by Bernini; but it was carved by his student Ercole Ferrata in 1667. Bernini dedicated it to his patron, Pope Alexander VII, who wrote, in the inscription at the base, that the elephant symbolizes the vast store of knowledge needed for wisdom.

    The obelisk that the pachyderm carries on his back dates from the sixth century BC; it is the smallest that the Ancient Romans brought back from Egypt. Like the one in the nearby Piazza della Rotondo it came from the Temple of Isis.

    This sculpture is a favorite piece of art of ours. He’s so cute!

    The Piazza della Minerva is around the corner from the Pantheon and it can be seen in the background of photo #3. This small square sits in front of the Dominican church, Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

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  • WheninRome's Profile Photo

    Santa Maria sopra Minerva - Our favorite church

    by WheninRome Updated Jan 24, 2009

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    Blue Ceiling of the Church
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    This was our favorite church in Rome, my wife in particular was taken by this church. This is the only gothic church built in Rome. The bright blue, pointed ceiling was stunning. My picture below does not do it justice.

    The body of Catherine of Siena lies under the beautiful alter.

    A statue of Jesus bearing the cross (picture below) is also very striking.

    There are numerous other alters along the sides of the church, all very beautiful, which you can light up with a coin or light an offering candle.

    We also liked the Nativity Scene.

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  • moacha's Profile Photo

    The church with beautiful stained glasses

    by moacha Updated Jul 27, 2007

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    The facade of this church is simple, the inside of this church is the only Gothic style.
    This is only one in Rome.
    Many works of art are collected, so that it can be called a small art museum.
    In pictures, "Saint Thomas Akutinasu", "Christ" ,"Saint's mother and child "
    In sculptures, "Christ " by Michelangero.
    In the churches of Rome, it is decorated with Stainedglasses.
    So it is unusual and is beautiful.

    Chiostro is on the left of the front of a church.
    Here, the famous trial of Galileo Galilei's Corpenican theory performed in the 17th century.
    there is a heresy referee place.

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  • monorailgold's Profile Photo

    Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

    by monorailgold Written Jun 8, 2007

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    the outside of the church
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    One of my favorite things when in Rome is going into all the churches. It seems that the plainer the facade, the more amazing the interior. The church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is a beautiful church with lots of stained glass and side chapels and mosaics. It is just behind the pantheon behind the elephant obelisk. It is the only gothic church in Rome. When you enter you will see the cobalt blue, starry ceiling. It is incredible. Make sure you take the time to look at all the stained glass windows this small church has to offer. Take some small change with you to turn on the lights in the side chapels. Take a look at the wonderful floor. Imagine how many people over the centuries have walked on this floor. The alter is beautiful and you can go up to it for a closer look. The body (excluding the head) of Saint Catherine lies under the alter. To the left of the alter is a statue of christ bearing the cross by Michealangelo. It didn't originally have the girdle, that was added years later.

    This is a wonderful church and should not be missed when you visit the Pantheon

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  • MM212's Profile Photo

    Piazza della Minerva

    by MM212 Updated Apr 9, 2007

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    Piazza della Minerva
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    Located behind il Panteone, Piazza della Minerva is a small square adorned with an Ancient Egyptian obelisk. This obelisk was found in the garden of the monastery of Santa Maria sopra Minerva and Bernini was subsequently given the task of mounting it in the middle of the Piazza. Bernini chose to create a humourous sculpture of an elephant with the obelisk mounted on its back, making this obelisk particularly interesting. Behind the obelisk in the attached picture is the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva which, though plain on the outside, happens to have one of the few - and very colourful - Gothic interiors in Rome. It was built in the 13th century over the ruins of the Roman Temple of Minerva. See attached photos.

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  • magyarozag's Profile Photo

    Minerva

    by magyarozag Updated Dec 30, 2006

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    Minerva statue and Santa Maria behind it

    If you go to the Pantheon in Rome, I advise you, whilst you are there, go up the small street on it's left (when facing the entrance) or South East of the Pantheon you will find a small square with a statue of an elephant with an obelisk on it's back. This is Minerva Square, behind the elefant is a beautiful church dedicated to Santa Maria (I think) and a small plaque commemorating the death of a Carrabineri (local police who wear elegant uniform). It is only a small square but many people go to the Panteon and I think if you do you should go to Minerva Square and see it for what it is.

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  • icunme's Profile Photo

    Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

    by icunme Updated Jul 8, 2006

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    Left
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    Tourists are drawn here primarily to view Michelangelo's powerful Christ with the Cross marble statue (detail in next tip) standing to the left of the main alter.

    Behind this simple façade bearing the coat of arms of Pius V you will find one of the most interesting churches of Rome including exceptional works from the end of the 13th centur to the 19th century, when the building underwent a radical restoration. The Aldobrandini Chapel is home to Bernini's Catherine of Siena, patron saint of Italy and a superb cycle of frescoes by Filippino Lippi are vivid.

    Photo 1 - Five Pontiffs are buried here, including Paulus IV whose coat of arms you can see only in this church, because when he died the Romans destroyed all signs of his pontificate. Works of Bernini are in abundance here - the Monument to Giovanni Vigevano is a very early work by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The academic structure of the bust is broken by the hand which adds energy to the determined look of the represented character.

    Photo 2 -The organ over the portal is stunning and not to be missed - most likely, I would not have looked up as I approached the exit had I not caught the upward gaze of a few others.

    Photo 3 - A later work by Bernini - the marble "drapery" funeral monument to Sister Maria Raggi is a stunning match between polychroma marble and metal items sparkling with gold gilding.

    As part of the Monument to Cardinal Pimentel you will see Charity by Antonio Raggi of Como, who worked for Bernini. He is regarded as the best follower of Bernini's style

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  • icunme's Profile Photo

    Michelangelo's Christ and the Cross

    by icunme Updated Jul 7, 2006

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    Three views of Michelangelo's Christ and the Cross to the left of the center alter in Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva (next tip). This statue was originally carved as a nude and the gold drape was added later.

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  • jungles's Profile Photo

    Minerva's Chick

    by jungles Written Jun 9, 2006

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    Elephant carrying obelisk

    This obelisk is the smallest of the thirteen in Rome, but it's still a pretty heavy load for the little elephant holding it up. The elephant was designed by the famous Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini. He was inspired by a 15th century novel called Poliphilo's Dream of the Strife of Love in which the main character meets an elephant made of stone carrying an obelisk. The statue was given the nickname Porcino (Piggy), eventually transformed to Pulcino, which in the Roman dialect means 'chick.' The obelisk was found in 1655 in the garden of the Dominican convent that adjoins the church; it was erected on the elephant base in 1667. For more information on Rome's obelisks, see my obelisk tip under St. John in Lateran.

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  • jungles's Profile Photo

    Rome's Hidden Gothic Treasure

    by jungles Written Jun 9, 2006

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    Facade and Pulcino

    This church doesn't get that much attention as its plain facade doesn't make it look very appealing from the outside. Usually the most people do is stop to admire the elephant and obelisk outside and then move on without even entering the church. Those who do venture in, though, are in for a real treat. The interior, with its high vaulted ceiling painted blue and covered in stars, looks like it would be much more at home in Paris than in Rome. In fact, it is Rome's only gothic church.

    The name means 'St. Mary on top of Minerva,' because like many churches it was built on top of an ancient pagan temple, this one dedicated to the goddess Minerva. St. Catherine of Siena died in the adjacent convent and is buried here (except for her head which is in Siena); there is a reclining statue of her that adorns her tomb just underneath the main altar. One of Michelangelo's sculptures, Christ the Redeemer, is also here to your left as you face the altar. This is not one of his more highly regarded works; it was rather poorly completed by one of his students, and the bronze sash was added later to cover Christ's indecent exposure.

    Open all day from 8am to 7pm; visits not permitted during mass. The official website is only in Italian but has lots of pictures for those who don't speak Italian.

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  • no1birdlady's Profile Photo

    Tour Inside Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

    by no1birdlady Written Sep 5, 2005

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    Simple doorway to Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

    Looking at the conservative outside of this church, you would never imagine how beautiful the inside of it is. The vaulted ceiling is a beautiful blue with ornate gold and white decoratons. It is one of the few Gothic buildings in Rome. The name is because it was built on the ancient ruins of a Temple of Minerva. Chapels line the main cathedral area. In here is the famous sculpture of RISEN CHRIST started by Michelangelo but finished by Raffaele da Montelupo in 1521. There is also a bust by Bernini.

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