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Three chapels by Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Cappella Cornaro

Cardinal Federigo Cornaro, belonged to one of the richest families of Venice. With him, Bernini did not have budget limitations and he and his team worked for years (1647-1651) on a chapel in honor of St Teresa in the church of S. Maria della Vittoria. Cardinal Cornaro required Bernini to execute personally the sculptures and the outcome is one of his masterpieces.

Seen from the exterior and the Ecstasy of Santa Teresa
Cappella Cornaro seen from the exterior and the Ecstasy of Santa Teresa

The light falls from hidden windows in the top of the altar on the statues of the saint and of the angel. The use of golden rays will again be considered by Bernini in St Peter's Chair of St Peter. The curved shape of the altar reminds me of the niches designed by Borromini in the same period in St John Lateran.

The stage boxes with the Cornaro family watching the ecstasy of St Teresa
The stage boxes with the Cornaro family watching the ecstasy of St Teresa

Cardinal Cornaro wanted many members (including ancestors) of his family to be commemorated so Bernini devised a relief showing them in the background of the nave of a church. The first impression is to see them in the stage boxes of a theatre.

Details of the chapel
Details of the chapel: architecture of the church behind the Cornaro family; self-portrait of Gian Lorenzo Bernini; St Teresa's foot; a skeleton watching from the pavement

The genius of Bernini and the professionalism of his team are revealed by the attention to the details in all the elements of the chapel.

Other chapels by Gian Lorenzo Bernini:
Cappella Raimondi in S. Pietro in Montorio
Cappella Paluzzi Albertoni in S. Francesco a Ripa

Other pages dealing with Baroque sculpture:
Monuments showing the dead in a medallion
Representation of Death in Baroque sculptures
Statues in the act of praying
Three busts by Alessandro Algardi
See also my List of Baroque Architects and my Directory of Baroque Sculpture.

Go and see another work by Gian Lorenzo Bernini  or go to my Home Page on Baroque Rome or to my Home Page on Rome in the footsteps of an XVIIIth century traveller.

All images © 1999 - 2003 by Roberto Piperno. Write to