Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Beata Ludovica Albertoni by Gian Lorenzo Bernini

When you walk along Trastevere, you are amazed by the amount of Churches surrounding the area, including Santa Cecilia and Santa Maria in Trastevere. Between all of them there is a little church, San Francesco a Ripa, far from the view of everyone, easy to reach but not so highly frequented by the tourists, because on the other side of Viale Trastevere.

Here, at the far end on the left inside, walking towards the altar you find the Cappella Altieri, for which Gian Lorenzo Bernini produced one of his latest works: the Beata Ludovica Albertoni (1671-74), a dramatic, mystic marriage and death.

Here Bernini allegorized the redeeming, fiery love of Christ’s sacred heart with the two hearts which flank Ludovica’s body like guardian figures and her burning, consuming devotion. 

During the seventeenth-century Catholic devotion, the fire of sacred love and burning devotion, death and union with the divine were seen as an extended metaphor of fire, flame and consumption. God's love was in the blessed Ludovica, who became a widow in 1506. She  joined the Franciscan Order as a tertiary and spent her family fortune on charity, exhausting her health taking care of the poor and undertaking penitential practices such as fasting. 

As always Bernini has shown his magistry and ability in representing this work, which was commissioned by Cardinal Paluzzi degli Albertoni.  

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