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San Luigi dei Francesi Church, Rome, Italy

April 2nd, 2008 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places

San Luigi dei Francesi is a church in Rome, not far from Piazza Navona.

The church was designed by Giacomo della Porta and built by Domenico Fontana between 1518 and 1589: the works could be completed through the personal intervention of Catherine de' Medici, who donated it some possessions in the area. It is the national French church of Rome and actually entitled to the Virgin Mary, to St. Dionigis Areopagitas and St. Louis IX, king of France. The French character is evident since the facade itself, which has several statues recalling national history: these include Charlemagne, St. Louis, St. Clothilde and St. Jeanne of Valois. The interior also has frescoes telling the stories of St. Louis (by Charles-Joseph Natoire), St. Dennis and Clovis.

The church was chosen as the place of sepulture for the higher prelates and members of the French community of Rome: these include the tomb of Pauline de Beaumont, died by consumption in Rome in 1805, erected by her lover Chateaubriand, the classic liberal economist Frédéric Bastiat and that of Cardinal de Bernis, ambassador in Rome for Louis XV and Louis XVI.

Domenichino painted here one of his masterworks, the frescoes portraying the Histories of Saint Cecilia. Other artists who worked in the decoration of San Luigi dei Francesi include Cavalier D'Arpino, Francesco Bassano il Giovanni, Muziano, Giovanni Baglione, Siciolante da Sermoneta, Jacopino del Conte, Tibaldi and Antoine Derizet.

The church's most famous item is however the cycle of paintings in the Contarelli Chapel, painted by the Baroque master Caravaggio in 1599-1600 about the life of St. Matthew. This include the three world-renowned canvases of The Calling of St Matthew, The Inspiration of Saint Matthew, The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew.

The church, together with the other French churches in Rome, is governed by an "Administrative deputy" named by the French ambassador at the Holy See. The current Cardinal Priest of the Titulus S. Ludovici Francorum de Urbe is André Cardinal Vingt-Trois.

Adiacent to the church is the late-Baroque San Luigi dei Francesi Palace. It was built in 1709-1716 as a "recovery for the French religious community and the pilgrims without resources". Its porch has a bust of Christ whose face is traditionally identified as Cesare Borgia's one. The interior houses a gallery with the portraits of the French kings and a notable Music Hall.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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