Monday, August 25, 2008

Death to King Loooeeeeeeeee!

No, not really.  I'm just having a "History of the World - Part I" flashback.  Remember Cloris Leachman as madame Defarge?

Thinking as I was, today, about St. Joseph Calasanz, I started to ponder the other Saint whose feast day was today: St. Louis IX, King of France (1226-1270).  I got to thinking of him because of the church named for him in Roma: San Luigi dei Francesi.  It's the church designated for French nationals living in Rome, and is usually the titular church for French Cardinals, most recently the Cardinal Archbishops of Paris.  I often pass the church on my visits there, as I walk between the Piazza Navona and the Pantheon.  But, though the church is named for him, you need to go a little further away, to the Church of the Gesù, to venerate a relic of King Louis.

Should you visit the church, make your way to the chapel in the back left corner.  This is the "Contarelli Chapel", designated by French cardinal Matthieu Cointerel (1519-1585) as the place where he wanted to be buried.  Thanks to some mismanagement by artists, paintings above the altar and walls of the chapel ended up being painted by the great Caravaggio around 1600.  They are three paintings of St. Matthew (since Matthew was the patron of Cardinal Contarelli).  Bring some Euro coins with you to light up the chapel and get a good look at the paintings (or, if you've got time, hang around and wait for some group of art students to swoop in and pay for the illumination themselves.  Little buggers are just using their parents' money, anyway).

The most famous of these paintings is this one, called "The Calling of St. Matthew".  For a better image that will give you more of the details, click here.  Check out the look of Christ, with his hand extended, towards Matthew.  See how Matthew can't look Jesus in the eye, and only looks down at the coins he collected in taxes.  Imagine what's going through his mind: "Jesus, or these coins?  Which life do I choose?"  Remember when art in churches "spoke" to people?

OK, I realize that I'm not really talking about St. Louis, as much as I'm talking about the church named for him.  But it is one of those neat little treasures hidden away in Rome.  Definitely worth a visit.

1 comment:

Smiley said...

Ah Christian art not the new stuff but from the good old middle ages. What paintings every detail had a purpose and said something to the viewer. each gaze each hand position.
If any monastery wanted to really make a killing in the money market they would make a nice book hard bound with pictures of middle age christian paintings for little children to look at. after looking at such lovely paintings the children s minds would be lifted to greater things. The kids would stop watching TV and the world would be perfect.
Ok sorry i am being silly but you get my idea don't you.