02. Ancient Mediterranean, 03. Early Europe & Colonial Americas, 04. Later Europe & Americas, Art & Humanities, Christianity, Europe, Italy, Religion, Vatican City

Monday in Rome, Part I: Church Hopping

You may be asking what the heck is church hopping? Well, it’s like bar hopping but for art history buffs. I’ve actually never been bar hopping, so I’m not sure how accurate my description is. Let me know.

Disclaimer: I’m splitting this day up into two because it’s too much; here is the second half.


This photo is so crappy, the lighting was terrible & my phone not fantastic at photos. Google a better one but I try to put my own photos into my blog as much as possible.

Santa Maria della Vittoria

My day started at 8:30 am. For those Dan Brown enthusiasts, so almost everyone, this church may ring a bell for you. This seemingly uninteresting church from the outside holds one of the coolest statues: Ecstasy of Santa Teresa in the Cornaro Chapel.

This sculpture was intertwined in Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons because of the angel’s arrow, I don’t remember exactly what that had to do with anything but I think it was a wild goose chase through Rome with different arrows pointing to the next clue.

In art history, this piece is quite scandalous, and I think anyone with a half dirty mind can see why. She looks like she is totally having an orgasm; basically she was. St. Teresa was known for having heavenly trances and visions and this particular scenes shows one episode when she describes feeling a pain that was like a fire-tipped arrow of divine love from an angel in her heart. She felt paint and extreme (erotic) joy. What do you think?


Santa Maria della Concezione

So the above picture is the outside of this church; you can’t take pictures inside but it is so.freakin.cool. – google some or book a ticket to Rome! 🙂

This is a Capuchin crypt, cool I know! For a scardy cat, I love mummies and bones and cemeteries and dead people in general. Could not pass up on this opportunity. The story I learned in the amazingly done museum was that this crypt was decorated just because some guy thought they should do something decorative and nice with all the dead monks they had, no satanic-Catholic worship or supernatural powers, unfortunately.

The monks who did this are Capuchin monks; they are an order under the Franciscan Order of the Catholic Church. And they are known as capuchin monks because of their distinctive brown hoods, cappuccio is “hood” in Italian (yes, similar to the drink). Probably the most famous Capuchin monk is Padre Pio, no worries if you’ve never heard of him. He is actually now a Catholic saint.


Santa Maria Maggiore

Ok, so this was not on the list but it was really close, so I swung by. In art history I learned about this church because of the 4th century mosaics inside…but compare that to the outside. You do not have to be an art historian to know something doesn’t add up. I thought I made a mistake (the horror of the idea!) But alas, I was correct, it’s just that the church has been added and built upon over the centuries. Although I looked for the mosaic but they were so high up (and because I forgot my glasses), I couldn’t really see detail.

San Pietro in Vincoli exterior

st peter's chains San Pietro in Vincoli


San Pietro in Vincoli

This art historically, religiously, & personally important for a few notable reasons:


What’s that? In vinculis is Latin for in chains. In this church are the (supposed) chains that held St. Peter (hence San Pietro) when he was captive and they miraculously attached themselves to another pair of chains when he was previously captive (he’s obviously not very good at escaping). They were dutifully on display.

Moses with horns

No Moses is not the devil. Funny story actually: there was a mistranslation from Greek to Latin by St Jerome. Moses is actually described as having “rays of the skin of his face”, which Jerome had translated as “horns.” The mistake in translation is possible because the word keren in the Hebrew language can mean either “radiated (light)” or “grew horns”. Why did no one pick up on the mistake earlier? No idea. So here is a sculpture of Moses for Pope Julius II’s tomb…with horns.

My thesis

Although perhaps only 4 people in the world have read it (myself and my 3 professors), my thesis is becoming super useful to my world travels. I almost totally forgot that a fresco I used in my thesis was in this church, until I was on my way out and BAM! I saw it. Not going to lie, I acted like I just met Angelina Jolie, and if you know me, you know how stupid I looked in this relatively quiet church. 🙂 By the way, it relates the same story as Castel Sant’Angelo.

End of part 1. If you read this far, congrats! Onto part II: CLICK HERE.



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