Just rewatched this charming Zeffirelli film. Delightful.
Just rewatched this charming Zeffirelli film. Delightful.
With the plethora of churches in Rome, you might think it would be hard to have a favorite. But, for me, The Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola at Campus Martius is my favorite.
It is a Roman Catholic titular church dedicated to Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus.
What I love about it is the ceiling fresco:
The story of this incredible building and its surroundings begins with the gift, in 1560, from Vittoria della Tolfa, the Marchesa della Valle. She donated her family isola, which was an entire city block and its existing buildings, to the Society of Jesus in memory of her late husband the Marchese della Guardia Camillo Orsini. This was also the founding the Collegio Romano and the beginning of the building of a church with a different name from the one that is discussed in this post.
Although the Jesuits received the marchesa’s land, they did not get any funds from her for completing the church. They were able to build a church, but it would later be dismantled so that this current church could be built on the site and was used by the Collegio Romano. Over time, the old church became insufficient for over 2,000 students of many nations who were attending the College at the beginning of the 17th century.
Pope Gregory XV, who was a former student of the Collegio Romano, was strongly therefore attached to the church. Following the canonization of Ignatius of Loyola in 1622, he suggested to his nephew, Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, that a new church dedicated to the founder of the Jesuits should be erected at this site.
The young cardinal accepted the idea, asked several architects to draw plans, among them Carlo Maderno. Cardinal Ludovisi finally chose the plans drawn up by the Jesuit mathematician, Orazio Grassi, professor at the Collegio Romano itself.
The foundation stone was laid on August 2, 1626, four years later, a delay which was caused by the fact that a section of the buildings belonging to the Roman College had to be dismantled. The old church was eventually demolished in 1650 to make way for the massive Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola, which was begun in 1626 and finished only at the end of the century. In striking contrast to the earlier Church of the Annunciation, which occupied only a small section of the Collegio Romano, the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola took up a quarter of the entire block when it was completed.
The church was opened for public worship only in 1650, at the occasion of the Jubilee of 1650. The final solemn consecration of the church was celebrated only in 1722 by Cardinal Antonfelice Zondadari. The church’s entrance faces the Rococo Place of San Ignazio was planned by the architect Filippo Raguzzini.
Andrea Pozzo, a Jesuit lay brother, painted the grandiose fresco that stretches across the nave ceiling (after 1685). The fresco celebrates the work of Saint Ignatius and the Society of Jesus in the world, presenting the saint welcomed into paradise by Christ and the Virgin Mary and surrounded by allegorical representations of all four continents.
Pozzo’s work seems to visually dissolve the actual surface of the nave’s barrel vault, arranging a perspectival projection to make an observer see a huge and lofty sky filled with floating figures.
A marble disk set into the middle of the nave floor marks the ideal spot from which observers might fully experience the illusion.
A second marker in the nave floor further east provides the ideal vantage point for the trompe l’oeil painting on canvas that covers the crossing and depicts a tall, ribbed and coffered dome. The cupola one expects to see here was never built and in its place, in 1685, Andrea Pozzo supplied a painting on canvas with a perspectival projection of a cupola. Destroyed in 1891, the painting was subsequently replaced.
Pozzo also frescoed the pendentives in the crossing with Old Testament figures: Judith, David, Samson, and Jaele.
Pozzo also painted the frescoes in the eastern apse depicting the life and apotheosis of St Ignatius. Pozzo is also responsible for the fresco in the conch depicting St. Ignatius Healing the Pestilent.
It is, of course, the depiction of the American continent that delights me the most. I never tire of craning my neck to look up at this masterpiece.
A great organization doing a world of good in Florence.
The Sorelle Fontana fashion house was founded in Rome in 1943 by three sisters and Italian designers: Zoe Fontana (1911-1979), Micol Fontana (1913-2015) and Giovanna Fontana (1915-2004). I recently posted about their designs for Rita Hayworth in The Barefoot Contessa (1954).
There’s a fair amount of information available in the public sphere online, including on Youtube.
The actual atelier is featured in Luciano Emmer’s film Le ragazze di Piazza di Spagna. The film was shot in the Sorelle Fontana’s atelier near Piazza di Spagna in Rome.
Above: Lucia Bosè and Zoe Fontana in Le ragazze di Piazza di Spagna.
Below: Anita Ekberg, testimonial of first perfume “Glory by Fontana” with Zoe Fontana.
Below: Raquel Welch, female costar in Eduardo De Filippo’s movie Spara forte più forte, wears Sorelle Fontana designs.
In 1954, the film The Barefoot Contessa was released, starring Rita Hayworth and Humphrey Bogart. I just watched the film on Amazon.it and loved it just for the settings and costumes. The fashion house of the Sorelle Fontana provided the gorgeous costumes worn by Hayworth and some of the other characters.
The Sorelle Fontana fashion house was founded in Rome in 1943 by three sisters and Italian designers: Zoe Fontana (1911-1979), Micol Fontana (1913-2015) and Giovanna Fontana (1915-2004). I’ll be posting strictly about the fashion house soon.
The Barefoot Contessa is considered one of director/producer Mankiewicz’s most glamorous “Hollywood” films, but it was produced out of Cinecittà Studios in Rome, Italy. The exterior scenes were shot at Tivoli (the olive grove), Sanremo, and Portofino. The film’s Italian production was part of the “Hollywood on the Tiber” phenomenon.
The Saturday Review called Ava Gardner “one of the most breathtaking creatures on earth.” It is hard to disagree.
I took a bunch of screen shots of the film to illustrate this post. The pictures aren’t great, but the costumes are.
There’s an interesting place in Florence that was, when it was founded in 1828, an extremely bucolic locale.
Today, it stands isolated as an island (Piazzale Donatello) in a ring road system, which is really too bad. Nevertheless, knowing how land development works all over the world, it is a comfort that the place still survives.
The cemetery was founded to provide a solution to a very real problem. Before 1827, non-Catholics who died in Florence had to be buried in Livorno. The cemetery acquired the name ‘English’ because Protestants, most of whom were English, had to be buried outside the medieval city walls.
The English Cemetery was officially closed in 1877, when the medieval walls of Florence came down, making burials within the city boundary illegal, and for a century and a quarter the mini-necropolis remained locked and neglected.
Fortunately, Julia Bolton Holloway, a literary scholar specialising in the works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning – whose Penguin Classic Anthology she co-edited – took on responsibility for the cemetery. It was reopened to the public in 2003 for the reception of ashes but not bodies, and Holloway is actively raising restoration funds.
Ted Jones, wrote the following in his book, Florence and Tuscany: A Literary Guide for Travellers:
When I called, she [Julia Bolton Holloway] was re-lettering a gravestone, and she has set up a number of charitable institutions to ensure its future maintenance. Today, with the gardens replanted and well-maintained and the memorials inscribed and re-erected, it is a pleasure to visit, and well worth the slalom through the traffic – safe in the knowledge that if you don’t make it to the cemetery, there is a hospital next door.
There’s a grand old hotel facade in Florence that proclaims on a marble plaque that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the revered American poet, stayed in this place and called the piazza in front of it “the Mecca for the foreigners.” The plaque also notes that Longfellow translated Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Roughly translated, the plaque reads:
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(1807 – 1882)
A master in the neo-Latin language
Translator of the Divine Comedy
Among the Florentine palazzi
It was Here
In the Piazza that he called
“The Mecca of the foreigners”
While most Americans are familiar with Longfellow from their high school literature classes, I bet there are many things about the poet that are not commonly known.
Longfellow was born February 27, 1807, in Portland, Maine, to an established New England family. His father, a prominent lawyer, expected his son would follow in his profession. Young Henry attended Portland Academy, a private school and then Bowdoin College, in Maine. Longfellow was an excellent student, showing proficiency in foreign languages.
Upon graduation, in 1825, he was offered a position to teach modern languages at Bowdoin, but on the condition that he first travel to Europe, at his own expense, to research the languages. He did so, touring Europe from 1826 through 1829. There he developed a lifelong love of the Old World civilizations and taught himself several languages. It must have been at that time that he stayed in the Florentine palazzo, upon which his visit is proudly announced on the plaque.
Upon his return from Europe, Longfellow married and began the teaching of modern languages at Bowdoin. Because the study of foreign languages was so new in America, Longfellow had to write his own textbooks.
In addition to teaching and writing textbooks, he published Outre-Mer: A Pilgrimage beyond the Sea, a collection of travel essays on his European experience. His outstanding work earned him a professorship at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Before he began at Harvard, Longfellow and his wife traveled to northern Europe. Tragically, on this trip his wife, Mary, died in 1836 following a miscarriage. Devastated, Longfellow returned to the United States seeking solace. He turned to his writing, channeling his personal experiences into his work.
He soon published the romance novel Hyperion, where he unabashedly told of his unrequited love for Frances Appleton, whom he had met in Europe soon after his first wife died. After seven years, they married in 1843, and would go on to have six children.
Above: Fanny Appleton Longfellow, with sons Charles and Ernest, circa 1849
Over the next 15 years, Longfellow would produce some of his best work such as Voices of the Night, a collection of poems including “Hymn to the Night” and “A Psalm of Life,” which gained him immediate popularity. Other publications followed such as Ballads and Other Poems, containing “The Wreck of the Hesperus” and the “Village Blacksmith.” During this time, Longfellow also taught full time at Harvard and directed the Modern Languages Department. Due to budget cuts, he covered many of the teaching positions himself.
Longfellow’s popularity grew, as did his collection of works. He wrote about a multitude of subjects: slavery in Poems on Slavery, literature of Europe in an anthology The Poets and Poetry of Europe, and American Indians in The Song of Hiawatha. One of the early practitioners of self-marketing, Longfellow expanded his audience, becoming one of the best-selling authors in the world. He was able to retire from teaching and became the first self-supported American poet.
In the last 20 years of his life, Longfellow continued to enjoy fame with honors bestowed on him in Europe and America. Among the admirers of his work included Queen Victoria, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Prime Minister William Gladstone, Walt Whitman and Oscar Wilde.
Unfortunately, Longfellow experienced more sorrow in his personal life. In 1861, a house fire killed his 2nd wife, Fanny, and that same year, the country was plunged into the Civil War. His young son, Charley, ran off to fight without his approval.
It was after his wife’s death that he immersed himself into the translation of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, which was, by any reckoning, a monumental project.
Why, you might wonder, would he attempt this translation?
In fact, although “The Divine Comedy” is hailed today as a major work in the Western canon, it was not always so highly regarded. Although recognized as a masterpiece in the centuries immediately following its publication in 1320, the work was largely ignored during the Enlightenment, with some notable exceptions such as Vittorio Alfieri; Antoine de Rivarol, who translated the Inferno into French; and Giambattista Vico, who in the Scienza nuova and in the Giudizio su Dante inaugurated what would later become the romantic reappraisal of Dante, juxtaposing him to Homer.
The Comedy was “rediscovered” in the English-speaking world by William Blake – who illustrated several passages of the epic – and the Romantic writers of the 19th century.
Longfellow spent the several years following his 2nd wife’s death by translating Dante’s Divine Comedy. To aid him in perfecting the translation and reviewing proofs, he invited friends to meetings every Wednesday starting in 1864. The “Dante Club,” as it was called, regularly included William Dean Howells, James Russell Lowell, and Charles Eliot Norton, as well as other occasional guests.
In his celebrated translation, instead of attempting hendecasyllables, Longfellow used blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter). He followed Dante’s syntax when he could, and wrote compactly in unrhymed tercets (the “Mountain”/”fountain” rhyme here would appear to be accidental). The effect is nothing like Dante’s sinuous tide of terza rima, but Longfellow’s verse flows not un-melodiously, the cadence of the line pleasantly varied with both feminine and masculine endings. In general, the style is plain rather than florid.
The full three-volume translation, the first American translation, was published in the spring of 1867, though Longfellow continued to revise it. It went through four printings in its first year.
The elite of the New World were already familiar with Dante from their travels to Italy as well as British translations of his work. But, owning a copy of Longfellow’s translation of Dante was a must for those Americans who identified with the highest Western culture.
Instead of attempting hendecasyllables, the American poet uses blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter). He follows Dante’s syntax when he can, and writes compactly in unrhymed tercets (the “Mountain”/”fountain” rhyme here would appear to be accidental). The effect is nothing like Dante’s sinuous tide of terza rima, but Longfellow’s verse flows not un-melodiously, the cadence of the line pleasantly varied with both feminine and masculine endings. In general, the style is plain rather than florid.
It was an amazing achievement. Moreover, Longfellow’s translation has held up through the 150 years since it was published. A leading expert in the written word notes it as perhaps the best of the many subsequent translations of the work in English.
You can read her blog post here:
In it, Professor Haven notes:
I have a number of translations of Dante’s The Divine Comedy in my home – among them the translations of Charles Singleton, Dorothy L. Sayers, Peter Dale, and others.
But perhaps the most neglected one is the battered volumes I found on ebay, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. This overlooked translation finds a new champion in Joseph Luzzi, in “How to Read Dante in the 21st Century” in the online edition of The American Scholar:
… one of the few truly successful English translations comes from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a professor of Italian at Harvard and an acclaimed poet. He produced one of the first complete, and in many respects still the best, English translations of The Divine Comedy in 1867. It did not hurt that Longfellow had also experienced the kind of traumatic loss—the death of his young wife after her dress caught fire—that brought him closer to the melancholy spirit of Dante’s writing, shaped by the lacerating exile from his beloved Florence in 1302. Longfellow succeeded in capturing the original brilliance of Dante’s lines with a close, sometimes awkwardly literal translation that allows the Tuscan to shine through the English, as though this “foreign” veneer were merely a protective layer added over the still-visible source. The critic Walter Benjamin wrote that a great translation calls our attention to a work’s original language even when we don’t speak that foreign tongue. Such extreme faithfulness can make the language of the translation feel unnatural—as though the source were shaping the translation into its own alien image.
Another scholar recently recommends Longfellow’s translation as the best way to read Dante in the 21st century.
You can read Mr. Luzzi’s essay here:
See also: Longfellow’s Dante: Literary Achievement in a Transatlantic Culture of Print
by Patricia Roylance https://www.jstor.org/stable/41428522?read-now=1&seq=14#metadata_info_tab_contents
Or, you can read the translation for yourself. Fortunately for us, in the 21st century you can read Longfellow’s translation online:
As for me, whenever I walk through the piazza that Longfellow is said to have named “the Mecca for the foreigners” I will remember the poet and his time in Florence. I feel the same keen appreciation for this lovely space as he apparently did.