Monuments to Saints

Rome is a city of saints (and hopefully saints-in-the-making), and the tombs of saints can be found in churches all around town, some prominent, some more hidden.


The tomb of St. Ignatius of Loyola, in the Church of the Gesù, is considered by some to be the most glorious in all of Christendom. While the saint’s body is encased in a sarcophagus beneath the altar, surrounding it is a gargantuan monument to his life and legacy, comprising the entire very large wall of the left transept of the church.

Pictured above is the famous life-sized (or larger) gold and silver statue of the saint, the centerpiece of the monument, encrusted with jewels and surrounded by rich marbles including lapis lazuli. For most of the day it is not visible; it is hidden behind a painting of the same saint. But at 5:30pm almost every day, there is a sort of “baroque spectacle” in which sacred music and a recorded narration about the life of St. Ignatius is played, spotlights are shown upon different scenes from his life in various parts of the monument, and finally, near the end, the painting is lowered to reveal this amazing statue. Apparently it is the original baroque (ca. 18th century) apparatus that causes the painting to lower and the statue so to be revealed.

Ever since the election of Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope ever, I now have a new reason to stop by St. Ignatius’ tomb to say a quick prayer, for he was the founder of the Jesuits. May he intercede for our Holy Father as he fulfills his ministry of charity to the Church, and may he intercede for us so that we can become saints as well!

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