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Open Access Joshua Stopping the Sun and Ignatius of Loyola at Il Gesù in Rome

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Joshua Stopping the Sun and Ignatius of Loyola at Il Gesù in Rome

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image of Journal of Jesuit Studies

In 1672, the Jesuit superior general Gian Paolo Oliva commissioned from Baciccio a lavish cycle of ceiling frescoes for Rome’s Il Gesù after earmarking the tribune vault for Giacomo Cortese to decorate with a representation of Joshua Stopping the Sun. Oliva also planned to translate Ignatius of Loyola’s remains to the high altar. Pope Gregory XV had explicitly likened Ignatius to the Old Testament general Joshua during the Jesuit founder’s canonization in 1622, and it may be inferred that Oliva intended to promote a hagiographic connection between the two figures through the prominent juxtaposition of Cortese’s fresco with the saint’s relics. However, the Ignatius-Joshua connection remained uncelebrated: the plan to translate the relics did not come to fruition, Cortese passed away in 1676, and the apse vault was eventually decorated by Baciccio with the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. Cortese’s demise has heretofore been considered the decisive factor leading to the change in subject of the tribune fresco, but the clandestine correspondence of Lazzero Sorba, S.J., indicates another important factor was at play. These documents evidence an unusually strained relationship between the Society and Pope Innocent XI Odescalchi, elected in 1676. They suggest that the Society’s discomfiture vis-à-vis Innocent XI influenced its decision to replace the self-aggrandizing Joshua Stopping the Sun with the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb.

Affiliations: 1: independent scholar reshmanayyar@gmail.com

In 1672, the Jesuit superior general Gian Paolo Oliva commissioned from Baciccio a lavish cycle of ceiling frescoes for Rome’s Il Gesù after earmarking the tribune vault for Giacomo Cortese to decorate with a representation of Joshua Stopping the Sun. Oliva also planned to translate Ignatius of Loyola’s remains to the high altar. Pope Gregory XV had explicitly likened Ignatius to the Old Testament general Joshua during the Jesuit founder’s canonization in 1622, and it may be inferred that Oliva intended to promote a hagiographic connection between the two figures through the prominent juxtaposition of Cortese’s fresco with the saint’s relics. However, the Ignatius-Joshua connection remained uncelebrated: the plan to translate the relics did not come to fruition, Cortese passed away in 1676, and the apse vault was eventually decorated by Baciccio with the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. Cortese’s demise has heretofore been considered the decisive factor leading to the change in subject of the tribune fresco, but the clandestine correspondence of Lazzero Sorba, S.J., indicates another important factor was at play. These documents evidence an unusually strained relationship between the Society and Pope Innocent XI Odescalchi, elected in 1676. They suggest that the Society’s discomfiture vis-à-vis Innocent XI influenced its decision to replace the self-aggrandizing Joshua Stopping the Sun with the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb.

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/content/journals/10.1163/22141332-00302003
2016-03-01
2018-10-16

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