|As you exit the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, you'll be in the|
shadow of, and amidst the crowds swarming around the Pantheon
Construction began on this Dominican church in the 13th century, and it is an interesting, or perhaps unfortunate, mix of Gothic and baroque architecture. "Sopra Minerva" is thought to derive from the Minerva temple over which the church may have been built.
Before one tries to identify all the magnificent art in the church, hie thee to the choir in the adjacent convent, reachable from the church, on the left side. Here you can see where Galileo was tried - for history buffs, it doesn't get any better than this. The tomb of Pope Paul IV (1555-59), the Great Inquisitor, appropriately is in this church. Some church history is available online. Also see http://romanchurches.wikia.com/wiki/Santa_Maria_sopra_Minerva.
|Pope at rest|
In the church itself, you can spend hours mesmerized by the art works that in every conceivable form commemorate death, as the Catholics do best. You can start with Michelangelo's Christ Bearing the Cross, also known as Christ Risen, and then move on to Bernini's memorial to Maria Raggi and his tomb for Giovanni Vigevano.
|Tombs to be walked on, or prayed against|
|Bernini's memorial to Maria Raggi|
|Bernini's tomb for Giovanni Vigevano|
You might save the best for last - Fra Lippo Lippi's Carafa Chapel frescoes from the late 15th century. These are astoundingly beautiful, very accessible (no long lines and you can walk right up to them). Have Euros available for the pay-light box; definitely worth it. A list of all the frescoes is online at: http://www.wga.hu/html_m/l/lippi/flippino/carafa/
And, of course, outside is the charming Bernini elephant atop a 6th century BC obelisk. The symbolism seems odd, but it has an historical basis. The inscription, translated from Latin, reads: "Whoever you are, who sees here the figures of the Egyptian wise man carved on the obelisk carried by the elephant, the strongest of wild animals, understand the symbolism to be that a strong mind supports firm wisdom."
church's very basic Web site (in Italian). You can also finish off your visit with a (expensive) glass of wine on the rooftop of the adjacent Hotel Minerva, with lovely views overlooking this piazza and the Pantheon.
|In the piazza the last time I was there, a soccer game was set up. |
The goalie (see photo above left) obviously disputed the call - with tears.
|You won't find lines like these, or waiting times at |
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva