On Sunday afternoon I made my way to the Jesuit church of Il Gesù for an experience of baroque ecclesiastical theater that I had read about in the New York Times. Here are some quotes from that article.
Every afternoon at 5:30 sharp, the “ta-da” moment arrives at the Chiesa del Gesù, the mother church of the Jesuit order.As choral music (composed in the 18th century by the Jesuit Domenico Zipoli) fills the church, a meticulously choreographed light show begins in the left transept of the Chapel of St. Ignatius of Loyola. During the startling crescendo, a painted altarpiece descends slowly, exposing a deep niche in which a majestic silver statue depicts St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits, jetting into heaven.
It is a quintessential Baroque spectacle, one that fell out of favor about a century ago. At the time, the church’s caretakers retired the canvas altarpiece, which depicts Christ presenting a royal standard to St. Ignatius, and the mechanical apparatus that lowers and raises it, so that the silver statue could remain on display.“The statue’s a little over the top, but it does make a big impression,” (said Rev. Daniele Libanori, the church's deputy rector.) Father Libanori much prefers the altarpiece, which he discovered five years ago, after he first arrived at the church and started exploring its nooks and crannies. He found the enormous canvas, painted around 1695 by Andrea Pozzo, a Jesuit lay brother, under the altar, still wedged into a frame that had been constructed so it could be raised by pulleys.