It is difficult to find a street more charmless and congested than the Via del Plebiscito in the heart of Renaissance and Baroque Rome. And yet it borders the monumental fifteenth-century Palazzo Venezia while the Doria Pamphilj, Grazioli, and Altieri palaces create a noble and uninterrupted architectural screen on the opposite side. Matters hardly improve when, a short distance further, the Piazza del Gesù is reached. The pinched, irregularly shaped clearing of the square is sadly inadequate: it hardly allows a proper view of the majestic façade of the Chiesa del Gesù that dominates it. Of the literally hundreds of Roman churches, “il Gesù” is one of the most historically and artistically significant, identified as it has been since its founding in 1568 with the Counter-Reformation movement and the consequent meteoric rise of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuit Order. Behind both...


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