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Blessed Ludovica Albertoni

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Beata (Blessed) Ludovica Albertoni is the last full life figure designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.  The sculpture is found in the Altieri Chapel (sometimes called Cappella Paluzzi Albertoni) within the Church of San Francesco a Ripa.  The Altieri was designed to commemorate and honor the Beata Ludovica Albertoni considered to be the ‘Mother Teresa’ of her time.  Bernini started work on the chapel in 1671 (completed in 1674) when he was seventy one years old.

By the great Bernini! By the great Bernini!

Who is Ludovica Albertoni?

Ludovica Albertoni was an ancestor of Pope Clement X’s (1670-1676) papal nephew.  She was born into wealth and Roman nobility.  She married a nobleman, Giacomo de Citara, and then moved to the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome with their three daughters.  Ludovica became a widow when she was 33 years old and soon after moved into the Franciscan convent at San Francisco a Ripa.  Here she devoted her life to prayer and to serving the poor.

She was renowned for her religious ecstasies (including levitation), and became known as a miracle worker. The day before her death from fever, Ludovica received the eucharist and then ordered everyone out of her room. When her servants were finally recalled, “they found her face aflame, but so cheerful that she seemed to have returned from Paradise.”  This is the moment that Bernini so precisely captures in his sculpture which some experts describe as the “idealization of death.”

The Chapel is an intimate experience of death

Bernini carved the sculpture in the form of a sarcophagus. The staging of the masterpiece creates a luminous apparition which appears at the end of the small, dark chapel in the Church of San Francesco a Ripa.  The chapel is one of three designed by Bernini, the other two being the Cornaro Chapel in Santa Maria della Vittora and Cappella Raimondi in S. Pietro in Montorio.

Here, Bernini once again unites architecture with sculpture and painting.  One almost feels embarrassed entering this private moment of ecstasy as Ludovica lies on her deathbed “in the act of dying”  and at the threshold of eternity.

This piece has a similar tone to another Bernini sculpture: The Ecstasy of St. Teresa, and for good reason.   Both St. Teresa and Ludovica were known for experiencing religious ecstasies.  Both are depicted experiencing mortal suffering and religious ecstasy.  Is it physical death or mystical “dying?”

San Francesco a Ripa – Visitor Information

Address: Piazza S. Francesco d’Assisi 88, Rome, 00153
Phone: 06/5819020
Hours: Daily 9-noon and 4-5:30


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