BERNINI, Gian Lorenzo
(b. 1598, Napoli, d. 1680, Roma)

Interior view

Santa Maria Assunta in Cielo, Ariccia

In 1661, Cardinal Flavio, Don Mario, and Don Agostini Chigi acquired Ariccia, the little township near Castel Gandolfo. Here stood the old palace of the Savelli, princes of Albano. Soon it was decided not only to modernize the palace, but also to erect a church opposite its entrance. Bernini was commissioned in 1662, and two years later the church was finished.

The basic form of the church consists of a cylinder crowned by a hemispherical dome with a broad lantern. An arched portico of pure, classical design is placed in front of the rotunda, counterbalanced at the far end by the sacristy which juts out from the circle but is not perceived by the approaching visitor. Here also are the two bell-towers of which only the tops are visible from the square. Straight colonnades flank the church, and these, together with the portico and the walls, enhance the cylindrical and monolithic quality of the rotunda.

In the interior there are three chapels of equal size on each side, while the entrance and the altar niche are a fraction larger, so that an almost unnoticeable axial direction exists. But the impression prevails of eight consecutive niches separated by tall Corinthian pilasters, which carry the unbroken circle of the entablature. The zone of the dome shows the combination of coffers and ribs, and here we find a realistic decoration with stucco putti and angels.

View the ground plan of Santa Maria Assunta in Cielo, Ariccia.