St Ignatius Chapel
Fabio Mangone (1622-1630) and
Francesco Maria Richini (1633-1638)
Giovanni Battista Crespi (a.k.a. Il Cerano)
St Ignatius’ Vision (approx 1622)
Oil on canvas
This Chapel, the first on the right-hand side of the nave, is dedicated to the founder of the Society of Jesus, Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) - beatified in 1609 and canonised in 1622 – depicted in the altarpiece by Cerano.
The altar itself is an aedicule resting on abase made of different marble inlays - decorated with multi-coloured stuccos - and flanked by black marble pillars topped with bronze Corinthian capitals. In the middle of the beam sits a scroll with the Jesuit motto Ad maiorem Dei gloriam. Above the tympanum a gloria of the Holy Name of Jesus raises high, flanked by two statues of allegorical meaning.
The altar was probably designed by the architect Fabio Mangone, to whom the allegorical figures on the other walls are also attributed; the construction works were interrupted (possibly because of the plague of the years 1628-1630) and then completed by Francesco M. Richini.
Finally, in the 18th century the side walls were also completed with the addition of the statues of the young Jesuit saints Louis Gonzaga (left) and Stanislaus Kostka (right), canonised in 1726.
The altarpiece by Giovanni Battista Crespi, a.k.a. Il Cerano, depicts the vision that St. Ignatius had at La Storta near Rome, in 1538. On a trip to the city, he saw Jesus carrying the cross on his shoulders, next to God the Father. Prompted by the Father’s instructions to ‘take this man to wholly serve you’ Jesus had told him ‘I want you to serve us’.
From that moment on, Ignatius dedicated himself fully to the call for a spiritual union with Christ and for mission.
The event is central to the process that led to the foundation of the Society of Jesus and the very choice of its name.
Giovanni Battista Crespi -born near Novara but living and working in Milan from the end of the 16th century and particularly when Federico Borromeo was cardinal there – was one of the city’s most eminent artists.
The large canvasses depicting Episodes from the life of Saint Charles Borromeo, which he was commissioned to paint for the Duomo in Milan in 1602, made him one of the main exponents of Catholic Reformation-inspired art in Lombardy.
His paintings are intensively eloquent; in St Ignatius’ Vision his late-Mannerist style, often infused with gentle spirituality, becomes devotional thanks to a composition technique full in colour, and an intense chiaroscuro.