In a city famous for its impressive ceilings—think that of the Sistine Chapel—Rome’s Church of the Gesù is a standout. The massive three-dimensional trompe l’oeil ceiling frescoes are so extraordinary that a large mirror has been strategically positioned so visitors can enjoy without straining their necks.
The baroque Chiesa del Gesù (Chiesa del Santissimo Nome di Gesù all’Argentina) is one of the main churches of Rome, and a visit is often included in walking tours of the city's most important historic and artistic churches, such as Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, San Luigi dei Francesi, and Santa Maria sopra Minerva. You can combine a visit to Church of the Gesù with skip-the-line Vatican tickets to also tour St. Peter's Basilica, or opt for an audio-guided tour to visit this and other attractions at your own pace.
The church was built in the 16th century to replace an older Jesuit church marking the spot where the founder of the Jesuit order, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, once prayed to an image of the Virgin Mary (still preserved inside). The ornate frescoes over the nave and inside the dome by Giovanni Battista Gaulli date from the 17th century and feature clever trompe l’oeil effects.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Remember to wear clothing that covers your shoulders and knees to enter Catholic churches in Rome.
- Tours of Rome's churches require quite a bit of time on your feet, so wear comfortable shoes.
- Due to the stairs at the entrance to the church, it is not accessible to wheelchairs or strollers.
- Photography without a flash is allowed inside the church.
How to Get There
Church of the Gesù is located along Via degli Astalli on Piazza del Gesù right in the center of Rome, a quick walk from Piazza Venezia where many buses and tram lines stop.
When to Get There
Rome is one of the most popular destinations in Italy, and its most famous churches can be crowded during the busy summer season. Try to visit first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon to enjoy the ceiling decorations in relative peace.
The Gesù Chapels
Other highlights of Church of the Gesù include the sumptuous side chapels, namely the Cappella di Sant'Andrea, the Saint Francis Xavier Chapel, and the Chapel of St. Ignatius, designed by Andrea Pozzo.