THE ALTAR OF ST. IGNATIUS AND THE “BAROQUE MACHINE”
Every day, at 5.30 p.m., the baroque scenographic apparatus made by Andrea Pozzo* is presented through an audio guided commentary, accompanied by a musical background”.
Covering the niche of the altar, with the statue of St. Ignatius, there is a big painting attributed to Andrea Pozzo. In the upper section, it represents St. Ignatius receiving. from the Risen Lord, the standard, bearing the monogram of the name of Jesus. In the lower section, in a vague background, there are two angels: the one on the left is holding open the book of the Gospels, while the one on the right is pointing in the same book to four characters that represent the four continents known at that time. The painting goes up and comes down like a stage curtain, thanks to a system of balances called the “Baroque Machine”.
So, the altar, as a whole, looks like a sort of stage, on which is represented the development of the road to holiness undertaken by St. Ignatius and by all those, who, following the road indicated by the Spiritual Exercises, would also like to imitate him. The contemplation of the whole artistic complex reaches its apex when, during the solemn festivities, by bringing down the painting on canvas, there appears St. Ignatius in all his glory, represented by the statue placed in the niche behind the same painting.
The original statue, the work of Pierre Il Le Gros, was melted down during the French occupation of 1798; all that remained of it was the chasuble, and to which, at the beginning of 1800, were adapted the missing parts, which were made in “stucco” and then silver-plated. The work was carried out in the studio of Antonio Canova, most probably by Adamo Tadolini (1788-1868).
The big painting by Andrea Pozzo was restored towards the end of 2007, together with the system of balances.