Saint Ignatius and the Hidden Statue

Happy feast of Saint Ignatius! (Okay, it was yesterday.) This tremendously holy soldier-turned-saint (1491-1556) founded the Society of Jesus, which proved to be the Pope’s secret weapon during the Counter-reformation. The Jesuits were not only staunch Catholics, but they were also brilliant intellectuals–and they managed to regain many, although not all, of the Catholic Church’s losses to Luther, Calvin and other protestants.

Right in the center of Rome stands a Jesuit church containing the tomb of Saint Ignatius. Gesu Ignatius statueIt too screams “Counter-reformation!” as it was deliberately designed to be the absolute antithesis of the dour, austere, always-wear-black mentality of Jean Calvin and many of the other protestant leaders. The chapel containing Ignatius’ tomb is simply dripping with precious marbles, lapis lazuli, silver and gold–including the jaw-dropping, larger-than-life silver statue of Ignatius which you can see here, as well as on the main page of our website.

And yet if you walk into this church and go looking for the statue… odds are extremely high that you won’t see it! That’s because normally, the altar looks like this, with a painting of St. Ignatius right above it. So what’s going on?Gesu Ignatius statue closed

Every afternoon, a multi-media presentation takes place in this chapel, celebrating the life and the writings of St. Ignatius. The lights are dimmed, music plays in the background, selections from Ignatius’ works are read… and eventually this painting slowly descends on a pulley system, revealing the statue of the saint in all its glory.

Best of all, it’s free!

Incredibly, there are no signs whatsoever in the church, telling you about this daily event; somehow, you’re just supposed to know. That’s why thousands of visitors stream in and out of this church every day, many of them unaware that if they’d only wait a few minutes longer, they’d be in for a real treat! You can watch a snippet of what happens here, but we can assure you that it’s a million times better in person. See what you’ll miss, if you visit Rome without a knowledgeable guide?