Giuseppe Conte

Piazza di Sant’Ignazio: Everything You Need to Know

Explore the baroque elegance and historical significance of Piazza di Sant'Ignazio in Rome.

View of the majestic church at Piazza di Sant'Ignazio


Did you know that Piazza di Sant'Ignazio is one of the few squares in Rome that has no fountain? Or that it was designed to resemble a theatrical stage, with curved buildings and perspective tricks? These are just some of the intriguing facts about this beautiful baroque square, located in front of the church of Sant'Ignazio di Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order. In this article, we will explore the origins, historical significance, lesser-known stories, and dark histories of this fascinating piazza, which is a must-see for anyone who loves art, history, and culture.

Historical Context

Piazza di Sant'Ignazio was created in the 18th century, when Pope Benedict XIII commissioned the architect Filippo Raguzzini to redesign the area in front of the church of Sant'Ignazio, which was built between 1626 and 1650 by the Jesuits as the chapel of their Roman College. The pope wanted to honor the memory of Ignatius of Loyola, who had been canonized in 1622, and to enhance the urban landscape of the Campo Marzio district, which was undergoing a major transformation at the time.

Raguzzini conceived a unique and innovative project, inspired by the theatrical scenography of his contemporary Pietro da Cortona. He created a harmonious ensemble of buildings that followed the curve of the square, creating a sense of movement and dynamism. He also used optical illusions to create a false perspective, making the square appear larger and deeper than it really was. He achieved this effect by varying the height and width of the windows and cornices, and by placing statues on different levels. The result was a stunning example of baroque architecture and urban planning, which earned Raguzzini the nickname of "the architect of perspectives".

The square was originally named Piazza del Collegio Romano, after the Jesuit college that occupied most of the buildings around it. The college was founded in 1551 by Ignatius of Loyola himself, as a center of education and culture for young men from all over Europe. It later became the Pontifical Gregorian University, one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world. The square was renamed Piazza di Sant'Ignazio in 1727, when a bronze statue of Ignatius was placed on top of the church's facade, facing the square. The statue was made by Pierre Legros, a French sculptor who worked extensively in Rome. It depicts Ignatius in a triumphant pose, holding a book and a cross, with two angels at his feet.

The square also features four other statues on its corners, representing four saints who were members or associates of the Jesuit order: Francis Xavier, Francis Borgia, Aloysius Gonzaga, and Stanislaus Kostka. They were sculpted by Camillo Rusconi, another prominent baroque artist who worked in Rome. The statues were added between 1729 and 1734, completing the decoration of the square.

Piazza di Sant'Ignazio has witnessed many historical events and cultural manifestations over the centuries. It was often used as a stage for religious ceremonies, theatrical performances, musical concerts, fireworks displays, and public celebrations. It was also a place where important political and social issues were discussed and debated. For example, in 1848, during the Roman Republic, a popular assembly was held in the square to elect a constituent assembly for the city. In 1870, after the capture of Rome by the Italian army, a crowd gathered in the square to protest against the occupation and to defend the papal authority. In 1922, during the rise of fascism, a group of students from the Gregorian University clashed with fascist squads in the square, resulting in injuries and arrests. In 1944, during World War II, an allied bomb hit one of the buildings on the square, causing damage and casualties. In 1968, during the student protests, another clash occurred between students and police in the square.

Today, Piazza di Sant'Ignazio is still a lively and charming place to visit, where you can admire its artistic beauty and historical legacy. You can also enjoy its cafes and restaurants, where you can taste some typical Roman dishes or sip a coffee while watching the people and the pigeons. You can also explore the church of Sant'Ignazio, which is a masterpiece of baroque art, with its magnificent frescoes, sculptures, and altars. You can also visit the nearby attractions, such as the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, and the Trevi Fountain, which are all within walking distance. Piazza di Sant'Ignazio is a hidden gem in the heart of Rome, where you can discover a rich and fascinating history, and experience the charm and elegance of the Eternal City.

Architectural Features

The Piazza di Sant’Ignazio is a famous Baroque and Rococo square, located in the Rione Campo Marzio, in front of the Church of Sant’Ignazio di Loyola. It was the architect Filippo Raguzzini who gave it its shape around 1728. The appearance evokes a theatrical setting, with a quasi-symmetry and buildings with concave shapes.

The Church of Sant’Ignazio di Loyola is the main attraction of the square. It is dedicated to Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus. It was built in Baroque style between 1626 and 1650, and it functioned originally as the chapel of the adjacent Roman College, which later became the Pontifical Gregorian University.

The church has a single nave with side chapels and a transept with a dome. The interior is richly decorated with frescoes, sculptures, stuccoes, and marble. The most remarkable feature is the ceiling fresco by Andrea Pozzo, depicting the apotheosis of St. Ignatius. The fresco creates an illusion of perspective and depth, making the ceiling seem higher than it is.

The square also hosts other notable buildings, such as the Palazzo Odescalchi, which was designed by Carlo Fontana and completed in 1696. It is one of the most elegant examples of Roman Baroque architecture. The palace was owned by various noble families, including the Odescalchi, who were related to Pope Innocent XI.

Another interesting building is the Palazzo Serristori, which was built in 1555 by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger for Cardinal Alessandro Serristori. It has a Renaissance facade with a portal and a balcony. The palace was later acquired by Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, who commissioned Raguzzini to remodel it in Rococo style.

Tips and Recommendations

If you want to visit the Piazza di Sant’Ignazio and admire its architectural beauty, here are some tips and recommendations for you:


The Piazza di Sant’Ignazio is one of the most charming and elegant squares in Rome. It showcases the artistic genius of Filippo Raguzzini and other Baroque masters, who created a harmonious ensemble of buildings that reflect the history and culture of Rome. The square is also a tribute to St. Ignatius of Loyola, who founded one of the most influential religious orders in the world. Visiting the Piazza di Sant’Ignazio is a rewarding experience for anyone who loves art, history, and spirituality.