Sant'Ignazio di Loyola in Rome

Getty Images

Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio di Loyola

Centro Storico

Lonely Planet's Ultimate Guide

Explore insider tips, fascinating history and surprising secrets to make the most of your experience.

Flanking a delightful rococo piazza, this important Jesuit church boasts a Carlo Maderno facade and two celebrated trompe l'œil frescoes by Andrea Pozzo (1642–1709). One cleverly depicts a fake dome, while the other, on the nave ceiling, shows Saint Ignatius Loyola being welcomed into paradise by Christ and the Madonna.

Rays of light are seen descending from the Saint and reflected by mirrors held by angels onto the Earth’s four known continents, positioned above the church’s simulated pillars.

For the best views of this dizzying work, stand on the small yellow spot on the nave floor and look up – alternatively, use the conveniently positioned mirror. Thanks to Pozzo's virtuoso use of perspective, a mass of figures, led by St Ignatius, appears to float heavenwards past a series of soaring columns and arches.

A second marble disc marks the best place to admire the dome, which is actually a flat canvas painted by Pozzo in 1685.

The church, which was built by the Jesuit architect Orazio Grassi in 1626, flanks Piazza di Sant’Ignazio Loyola, an exquisite square laid out in 1727 to resemble a stage set. Note the exits into "the wings" at the northern end and how the undulating surfaces create the illusion of a larger space.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Centro Storico attractions

1. Piazza di Sant’Ignazio Loyola

0.01 MILES

Laid out in 1727 to resemble a theatrical set, complete with exits into ‘the wings’, this exquisite rococo piazza is home to the 17th-century Chiesa di…

2. Tempio di Adriano

0.05 MILES

Eleven huge Corinthian columns are all that's left of the 2nd-century Tempio di Adriano. The temple formerly housed Rome’s stock exchange and is now used…

3. Piazza di Pietra

0.07 MILES

This charming piazza, surrounded by popular bars and cafes, is overlooked by 11 huge Corinthian columns – all that's left of the 2nd-century Tempio di…

4. Piè di Marmo

0.11 MILES

The Piè di Marmo is one of the Romans’ favourite monuments. This giant marble foot started life attached to a statue in a 1st-century temple dedicated to…

5. Galleria Doria Pamphilj

0.11 MILES

Hidden behind the grimy grey exterior of Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, this wonderful gallery boasts one of Rome’s richest private art collections, with works…

6. Colonna di Marco Aurelio

0.12 MILES

Towering over Piazza Colonna, the 30m-high Colonna di Marco Aurelio was completed in AD 193 to honour Marcus Aurelius’ military victories. Its vivid…

7. Obelisk

0.12 MILES

The emperor Augustus had this 6th-century-BC obelisk brought from Heliopolis in Egypt to celebrate his victory over Cleopatra and Mark Antony in 30 BC…

8. Basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

0.12 MILES

Built on the site of three pagan temples, including one dedicated to the goddess Minerva, the Dominican Basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is Rome’s…