Santa Maria della Pace is a lovely church close to the beautiful Piazza Navona. It was built where it originally stood a chapel dedicated to St. Andrew of Aquaricariis. In 1482 pope Sixtus IV made an oath, that he would dedicate a church to Mary where a miraculous image of the Virgin Mary bled.
The pope was very much smitten by this even and later he made another oath: if the Pazzi conspiracy against the Medici in Florence in which he was involved would have not ended in a war he would have commissioned a church dedicated again, to Mary. The first XV century church was probably designed by Baccio Pontelli or Meo del Caprino, perhaps by both. The building underwent a new decorative phase during 1611: the building was enlarged, especially the area around the high altar. The restoration was payed for by the Rivaldi family which got a large sepulchral crypt at the foot of the high altar. In 1656-67 pope Alexander VII commissioned a new restoration of the church to Pietro da Cortona who added the splendid Baroque facade to the building. The church’s facade is one of the main works of the Roman Baroque style.
The entrance of the church is still the XV century porch. The church has a very short nave that ends in an octagonal dome and apse. The high altar was designed by Carlo Maderno in 1614 to host the miraculous XIV century fresco of the Madonna and Child.
The first chapel on the righthand side of the nave is the Chigi one, commissioned by the papal banker Agostino Chigi - the architecture is attributed to Rapahel as for the other Chigi Chapel in Santa Maria del Popolo. Raphael also made the frescoes above the chapel representing the Sibyls and Angels (1514).
Above this there is another fresco representing four prophets which was designed by Raphael but executed by Timoteo Viti after his death. There is a funny anecdote about these frescoes: when the cardinal was told the price of the execution of this work by Raphael he claimed it to be too expensive so he consulted Michelangelo, Raphael’s greatest rival, sure that he would have claimed the work to be very poor. Michelangelo instead praised the work (very similar in style to that by him in the Sistine Chapel) and Agostino payed Raphael the full price! The sculpture in the altar reredos are rather fine, especially the bronze one representing Christ transported by Angels.
The second chapel, the Cesi chapel, was designed by the popular late Renaissance architect Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and it has a splendid grotesque decoration by Simone Mosca and two frescoes: the Creation of Eve and the Original Sin by Rosso Fiorentino, the great Florentine Mannerist master.
The statues in the niches, representing St.s Peter and Paul are by Vincenzo de Rossi who also sculpted the other decorations on the arch. The altarpiece is by Carlo Cesi, but the original one, now in Boston is also by Rosso Fiorentino.
The Ponzetti chapel, the first on the left has fine frescoes by the Renaissance architect Baldassarre Peruzzi (famous for the Villa Farnesina in Trastevere).
He painted a Madonna and Child with Sts. Brigid and Catherine with donor for the altar (1516) and some biblical stories in the little apse. The Ponzetti tombs (1505/09) are obviously located here.
The second chapel on the left, the Mignanelli Chapel is decorated with ancient Roman marbles taken from the Temple of Capituline Jupiter. The altarpiece; a Madonna in glory with saints is by the great Mannerist artist Marcello Venusti while the fresco above it representing the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden and Adam’s family is by Filippo Lauri and it is a later Baroque addition (1657).
The octagonal tribune is designed by Sangallo and it is decorated with stuccos by Pietro da Cortona. The tambour of the dome is decorated with frescoes, the most notable is a Presentation of Mary to the Temple by Baldassarre Peruzzi (1524).
The chapels in the tribune are mostly decorated in the 1600s - the finest has a Visitation by Carlo Maratta (1655), another has a Baptism of Jesus by Orazio Gentileschi, who then went to London and became one of the best artists at the court of the Stuarts.
The only Renaissance chapel in the tribune is the Crucifix one, the marble reredos is by Andrea Bregno (1490s) - the most famous sculptor in Rome before Michelangelo and the crucifix itself is a beautiful XV century one. This chapel was donated by pope Innocent III.
One of the most important treasures of this church is the Renaissance cloister by Donato Bramante (1500-1504) donated by the Neapolitan cardinal Oliviero Carafa who also commissioned a chapel in Santa Maria sopra Minerva with frescoes by Filippino Lippi.
This cloister is one of the most important works of the Cinquecento in Rome. It is a squared cloister and it inspired architects to come. Unlike the Florentine style, the Roman style alternated columns with pilasters, their number is 16, considered to be the perfect one by the Roman architect Vetruvius.