Il Gesù

Il Gesù

Architect Giacomo Vignola Giacomo and Giacomo della Porta

Date ca. 1575-84

Movement Late Renaissance

Located at Vatican City, Rome


This basilica was commissioned by the Order of the Jesuits, a newly created religious group appointed by Pope Paul III during the Council of Trent. In line with the principles of the Catholic Reformation, Vignola steers away from a central axis and opts for a basilican layout, giving churchgoers a greater view of the Holy Sacrament ahead; Vignola even goes so far as to remove the side aisles, replacing them with chapels instead.


Urban VIII Visiting Il Gesù by Andrea Sacchi and Jan Miel

This painting’s perspective comes from the perspective were the façade had been removed and the viewer is looking in from the street outside. Vignola’s linear axis has done just the trick—notice how the painting draws the attention towards the nave’s crossing and apse beyond; this feeling is accentuated by the dimness of the nave and lightness of the crossing—a result of the drum’s windows above.



Giacomo della Porta certainly recalls Michelangelo’s use of bold pilasters in pairs; however, he also utilizes the same exacting qualities that Bramante would have employed—for example, the pilasters of the first story responds to those in the second, while the height of the second story equals its width, and how even the entablature of the second story is broken at the same places as the entablature in the first. Giacomo also employs Alberti’s scrolling buttresses, helping to ease the elevation upwards, creating a graceful, compact and unified façade.