Feeling At Home in the St Ignatius Church in Dubrovnik

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St Ignatius Church, Crkva svetoga Ignacija, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Some churches speak to you more than others.  Sometimes you know the reason why – you can identify the aspects of it which appeal to you.  Other times, you don’t have any specific reason, you just know the you feel at home there.  Such was the amount of affection we had for St Ignatius Church that it was our final stop on our ‘goodbye loop’ of town before leaving.

The church is reached via a grand Baroque staircase that reminds you of the Spanish Steps in Rome.  Built in 1738, it was designed by a Roman architect, Pietro Passalacqua, and owes its elegant and theatrical appearance to the fact that it was indeed deliberately modelled on the Spanish Steps.  The theme continues at the top of the staircase, where you get to a square complex which is considered to be among the best examples of Baroque architecture in Croatia.

The story of the St Ignatius Church starts in 1555, when the bishop of Dubrovnik, Beccaddeli, asked the newly founded Jesuit order to open a college in the city.  This was because the locals often came into conflict with the teachings of the Italian Catholics who were charged with religious education, and Beccaddeli hoped that the Jesuits would do a better job.  Nothing happened for almost a hundred years, and it was only with a legacy left by a local Jesuit, Marin Gundulić, in 1647, that plans could finally be drawn up for both a college and a church.

The project got off to a false start when it was determined that various old buildings would need to be demolished in order for the new complex to be built.  This issue rumbled on for over a decade and just as progress started to be made, the 1667 Earthquake disrupted their plans.

It wasn’t until 1699 that work resumed again, with the recruitment of the great Andrea Pozzo to the project.  Pozzo was a renowned Jesuit architect and painter responsible for the famous frescoes in the St Ignatius Church in Rome.  In 1703 plans (modelled on the Roman St Ignatius) were drawn up, and by 1725 the church was finally built.

The church is particularly noteworthy for having the largest Baroque fresco cycle in Dalmatia.  The programme of what we see in the apse was designed by Pozzo but painted by Gaetano Garcia, who had trained in Rome and did a neat job.  In the centre is the Apotheosis of St. Ignatius, while on the left is the Encounter of St. Ignatius with St. Francis Xavier and on the right St. Francis Borgia.  On the ceiling is St. Ignatius in Heavenly Glory.

The rest of the church is quite plain, but the chapels are full of lively paintings and statues.  It feels very intimate, despite the baroqueness, and very cosy.

The other curiosity of the church is the cave chapel constructed in 1885 and dedicated to  Our Lady of Lourdes.  It is one of the oldest of its kind in Europe, and creates an interesting grotto effect, with flowers and plants around the cave.

So In Summary

Some of the canvases of the paintings are wibbly-wobbly, the paint is flaking off the walls, there are major damp problems in various places… but there is something about the place which is very endearing.  Please visit, and give that little cherub some coins – he’ll be very grateful.

Further Information

The church doesn’t seem to have its own website, so general information about it can be found on Dubrovnik’s Tourist website: www.tzdubrovnik.hr

How to Get There

Like everywhere in Dubrovnik Old Town, it’s an easy walk to the St Ignatius Church.  Here’s a link to a handy map to get you on your way; the church is no.20: www.godubrovnik.com




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