Piazza del Popolo
What you need to know
Piazza del Popolo is the point at which the three most important roads in Rome converge: Via del Babuino, Via di Ripetta and the famous Via del Corso.
The square has several outstanding features. Visitors entering from the North along Via Flaminia cannot fail to miss the Porta del Popolo designed by Bernini, while at the centre of the square stands the Egyptian Obelisk dating as far back as 1200 BC. There are also three churches in Piazza del Popolo.
The most remarkable is the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo which was built in the XI century and then underwent countless changes until 1600 when Pope Alexander VII decided to have the church restored, commissioning Bernini to make it more inspired and Baroque in style. Inside this marvelous church are works by Caravaggio and Pinturicchio.
The other two buildings, known as the twin churches, are also attributable to Alexander VII and determined the current configuration of Piazza del Popolo. These churches are called Santa Maria in Montesanto and Santa Maria dei Miracoli.
Santa Maria del Popolo is one of the most famous churches in Rome and is situated in Piazza del Popolo, at the end of Corso del Popolo. The church was originally a small chapel built in the 11th century by Pope Paschal II over the tomb of Nero.
It was reconstructed and enlarged several times over the centuries. The Basilica is made up of 3 naves and 4 chapels on each side. One of the chapels of particular worth is the Chigi chapel designed by Raffaello. In this room replete with images of angels and brilliant golden decoration is a lantern where the painted God, surrounded by cherubs, genuinely seems to lean out and look at us. The chapel also has much more to offer. In the mid 17th century, even the great Baroque artist Gianlorenzo Bernini himself contributed to the beauty of this basilica.
It is precisely in the Chigi Chapel where we find the marvelous sculpture of HABBAKUK AND THE ANGEL, made all the more famous as one of the many works of art mentioned in the book ANGELS AND DEMONS by Dan Brown. Also not to be missed are two masterpieces by another celebrated artist, Michelangelo Merisi, more popularly known as Caravaggio: Conversion on the Way to Damascus and the Crucifixion of Saint Peter.
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