Getting into the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo, set in the north area of the famous Piazza del Popolo, means take a glance to a large history of the roman art. In fact you will find Caravaggio, Carracci, Raphael, tombs dating from the XVI to the XVII century and decorated chapels which represent the new mania of the “grottesco” (that was the result of the discovery of the Domus Aurea). But there is a place where you will find the reasons why Rome could be consider as one of the best cities in the world: the Chigi’s Chapel, with the tomb of Agostino Chigi, the main member of the family.
The Chigi family arrived in Rome from Siena at the beginning of the XVI century, when the city started to become a modern place plenty of beautiful squares and churches, with large and long streets. A place in which each single italian artist would stay, in order to work at the rebirth of Rome. Popes like Giulio the Second or Leo X tried to change the face and the profile of the city, transforming it from a Middle Ages place to a modern one. This is the reason why many constructions sites were born in that period. But in order to built and rebuilt buildings and other, the Popes needed money. And…Who did the money own in that period? Of course, the banks! And Agostino Chigi was probably the richest banker and men in Italy. It was able to borrow money and money to the Pontiffes. In a certain way, if Rome managed to obtain new basilicas we should thank Agostino Chigi.
We have to consider that Agostino was a man of the Renaissance, who know a lot abut Ancient and Classical art. Moreover, he adored surround himself and his possessions (as Villa della Farnesina or Palazzo Chigi) with artistic masterpieces. He was able to called artists like Raphael, Sebastiano del Piombo, Baldassare Peruzzi, Giulio Romano in order to embellished his homes. So, it was a powerful and rich man, and when he died his family wanted to celebrate him in a fantastic way. This is the reason why he bought a chapel in one of the most important basilica in Rome, asking to Raphael to project it. And then, after some years, a real genius took care about the Agostino’s tomb: Bernini. When you will stay in front of this pyramidal tomb, with the gilded inscriptions which celebrate a banker, a nobleman, a creator, you should think about how it was foundamental for Rome and its beauty. When Bernini accepted the work he knew why the Chigi family called him.
Try to take a glance just above you, looking the Eternal Father at the top of the little Raphael’s dome: he stands here to bless you and one of the men who managed to made powerful and wonderful the Church, its brand and the its city: Rome.