The Chigi Chapel
Possibly the most outstanding section is the Chigi Chapel (cappella Chigi). It is one of five side chapels within the Church.
It was the initiative of Augustino Chigi (1465-1520), a local banking supremo who had origins in Siena.
He wished his family name ever to be remembered in Rome, and the chapel was built to serve the Chigi family as a mausoleum.
(The Palazzo Chigi – the Chigi house in Rome – is now the official residence of the Prime Minister of Italy.)
Providing examples of the High Renaissance, Raphael designed the entire chapel, and also prepared the cartoons for the mosaics on the ceiling.
He gave the chapel a circular plan. This reflected the architectural influences on Raphael of his close friend Bramante, (his birth name: Donato D'Angelo, 1444 – 1514).
Both a painter and an architect like Raphael himself, Bramante designed St Peter’s Basilica, and Raphael took over from him there when Bramante died.
The Chigi chapel was in turn completed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) after Raphael died 1520 at the age of thirty seven years.
Raphael painted a fresco of four classical sibyls over the archway of the door to the chapel. The chapel contained the early panel of The Marriage of the Virgin (now in the Brera, Milan) by Raphael.
The Chigi chapel, unlike other rooms within the church, is replete with statues, bronze reliefs, paintings, marbles and mosaics.
The altar piece of the chapel was painted by Sebastiano del Piombo (1485 – 1547). The statues of Jonah and Elijah were carved by Lorenzetto.
The Baroque style of the chapel is witnessed in the niche which contains the statues, Habakkuk and the Angel and Daniel by Bernini
The tomb of Maria Flaminia Odescalchi Chigi, designed by Posi, is also located within the Chigi Chapel.
The Chigi coat of arms is inlaid in marble on the floor at a point where it opens to allow coffins to be placed.
The chapel is like a small church in its own right, for it has a dome. Raphael prepared the cartoons for the underside of the dome, and they were painted by others.
By this time, Raphael was dead and Gianovanni Lorenzo Bernini was in charge of the completion of the project.
His influence is sensed in the clear lines of the dome, reminiscent of Brunes and Bramante of slightly earlier times.
(Continued on the next page.)
Photos (at right):
Chigi Chapel. Two lateral views, and the interior of its dome.
For the Augnet photo gallery on the Church of Maria del Popolo, click here.