when people ask me what are the must see churches in rome, i usually stare at them, and probe further as to what there would like to see – caravaggio afficionados would do good to head to san luigi dei francesi, angel and demon fanatics would be satisfied with santa maria della vittoria (and not so much with santa maria del popolo, because the chigi chapel is still scaffolded. -_-). but for people would like to see a really beautiful trompe l’oeil (that honest kinda trumps the sistine chapel), then i would definitely recommend the church of saint ignatius of loyola.
situated real close to the pantheon, this is a beautiful jesuit church that is curiously lacking a dome. well, history had it that whilst the jesuit order was building the church, they ran into monetary issues and didn’t have enough to build the most expensive portion of the building – the dome. hence, they tasked jesuit monk andrea pozzo to fresco a visual trickery of an ceiling dome in the interior of the building whilst the waited for more funding.
thing is, this dude really got his perspectives down pat, and created not only an utterly convincing internal dome, but also a stupendously beautiful ceiling fresco that literally looks as though it opens to the ceilings.
see what i mean? its honestly beautiful and it makes you wonder – had this Jesuit monk been an actual commissioned painter, he might have created wondrous masterpieces that would rival michelangelo or even raphael.
for a perfect view of both the dome and the fresco, go to the second star in the center aisle of the church after you enter — there’s usually a vantage point where all the imagery becomes perfectly aligned and here’s where it is (kinda like the king’s seat in the globe theatre). the church also has interesting artifacts including a model of churches/religious buildings across the world encircling this gigantic basilica (see image at top), and also the model of the intended dome for the church.
i must say.. it was an ingenious way of saving money ultimately eh?