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This iconic sculpture by Bernini, The Ecstasy of St. Teresa, sometimes known as the Transverberation of Saint Teresa, was made (even more) famous by featuring in the second of the Da Vinci Code Series, Angels and Demons. It's now housed in Santa Maria della Vittoria (Our Lady of Victory), so named because of the victory at the Battle of White Mountain in 1620 which reversed the Reformation in Bohemia. The church was began in 1605 and completed in 1626. There is exquisite decoration in this lovely baroque church, often called the Jewel of Rome, with much having been contributed by de Rossi and other luminaries, but it is perhaps most well-known for Bernini's famous sculpture of Saint Teresa of Avila. The church is also the only structure designed and completed by Carlo Maderno. Its faηade was created by Giovanni Battista Soria and resembles the nearby Santa Susanna.

This stunning sculptural group is executed in white marble, which gives it an otherworldly presence, is situated high in an elevated aedicule in the Cornaro Chapel. Its distance from viewers sometimes makes it difficult to see, so taking detail photos helps. The sculpture is definitely a highlight of any trip to Rome, as is this stunning church. It's probably the most famous masterpieces of the High Roman Baroque period. It is situated in an almost theatrical setting. the dramatic folds of the garment, the three-dimensional gold rays emanating from the ceiling above and the dramatic lighting impart a sense of movement. It was completed during the papacy of Innocent X. St. Theresa was a cloistered Discalced Carmelite nun, who wrote about this episode in her autobiography, The Life of Teresa of Jesus (1515-1582). She described an encounter with an angel, whom she stated pierced her heart with an arrow, leaving her "all afire with a great love of God," with a "pain so great, that it made me moan, and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain that I could not want to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God." A number of witnesses appear on the side walls, including life-size donor portraits of patrons, including Cardinal Federico Cornaro and Doge Giovanni I Cornaro. Bernini included a self portrait, as well! The sculpture is also known for its sensual appearance, which is largely drawn from Bernini's own imagination rather than Teresa's description of the event. One author noted the "melding of sensual and spiritual pleasure in the 'orgiastic' grouping as both intentional and influential on writers of the day."

This elaborately adorned church also reportedly houses the relics of Saint Victoria herself, who is displayed in a glass sarcophagus. Hers is a fascinating story in and of itself. Legend states that the sisters Anatolia and Victoria were betrothed to two non-Christian nobles, but when they refused to proceed with the nuptials on account of their faith, their fiancιes denounced them as Christians. The women were held prisoner on the respective estates of their suitors until they renounced their faith, but both were eventually turned over to the authorities when they could not be convinced. Victoria was allegedly stabbed to death by her suitor himself, who then died of leprosy six days later. Anatolia was supposedly locked up with a poisonous snake which refused to bite her, and a soldier (Audax) sent into the cell to kill her was subsequently attacked by the snake, but was then saved by Anatolia. He reportedly immediately converted to Christianity and was martyred with her when she was executed by the sword. The body of Saint Victoria was transferred in 827 to Mount Matenano from its prior location on the Piceno, and then again to Farfa in 931, but it is now entombed here.

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Additional Photos by Terez Anon (terez93) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 89 W: 78 N: 999] (1813)
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