From the outside, Rome's Chiesa del Gesù could easily be just another Italian church. With its columns and archways, it's grey stone frontage is certainly attractive, but not necessarily remarkable. However, this unassuming building actually hides a surprising secret: it is arguably among the most richly decorated churches in the entire city. Stepping inside, everywhere you look you find intricate gold features, white marble statues and detailed paintings, while its stunning ceiling fresco has even been compared to the Sistine Chapel. It's true that churches aren't for everyone, but even those that are not religious can't help but be blown away by its excess, artistry and attention to detail.
Now the mother-church of the Jesuit religious order, Chiesa del Gesù was first erected between 1568 and 1584 on the spot where Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the group's founder, once prayed before an image of the Virgin Mary. It continued to be developed and decorated during the 17th century, and is considered a leading example of the role of art in the counter-reformation movement, which sought to reassert the influence of the Catholic Church amid the Protestant Reformation. Before long, it it became the defining model of a Baroque church, and has now served as the inspiration for countless other Jesuit churches across the world.
The Chiesa del Gesù is located near the Pantheon and the Wedding Cake, a somewhat gaudy monument to the first king of Italy which was completed in 1925.
Although the church is open all day, they do recommend that the best time to visit is between 4pm and 7pm. The Sant'Ignazio Rooms, where St Ignatius Loyola spent the last years of his life and which adjoin the church, are only open from 4pm - 6pm, Monday to Saturday, and between 10am and noon on Sundays. Mass times can be found on their website
Throughout the Year
Chiesa del Gesù
Piazza del Gesù
Via degli Astalli
Italy 00186 Roma RM