On November 28, 1680, 340 years ago, under the reign of Pope Innocent XI, the eleventh pope he served, the genius symbol of Roman Baroque art died in Rome at the age of 81: the architect, sculptor, painter, and set designer, Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Naples 1598 – Rome 1680).
Pope Urban VIII (1568-1644), with whom he was already a friend, supported him and thus enabled his period of great success in the Eternal City; as soon as he was elected to the papal throne he told him: “It is your great luck, Cavaliere, to see Cardinal Maffeo Barberini Pope, but We are even luckier that the Cavaliere Bernini lives at the time of our pontificate” (F. Baldinucci, Vita del cavaliere Gio. Lorenzo Bernini, scultore, architetto e pittore, Firenze, Vangelisti, 1682, p. 10). After a period of distancing from pontifical court, not enjoying the favor of Urban VIII’s successor, Pope Innocent X (1574-1655), our artist was called by Pope Alexander VII (1599-1667) for very important works, including his architectural masterpiece: the two grandiose and harmonious colonnades of St. Peter’s Square, effective evocation of the solemn embrace of the mater Ecclesia, which complete Michelangelo’s project for the Vatican basilica and enhance the mighty Maderno’s facade.
Among Bernini’s works — churches, palaces, fountains, statues — we want to remember the masterpiece of his maturity: the Transverberation of St. Teresa, better known as the Ecstasy, a famous sculptural group placed in the left transept of the Roman church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, located in a few hundred meters from Termini train station, which he created between 1647 and 1651 on commission from the Venetian cardinal Federico Cornaro, there buried since 1653. “In the judgment of everyone, he did not produce by his hands marble worked with greater tenderness and design than this […]. Bernini said that this was the least bad work he had ever done” (D. Bernini, Vita del cavalier Gio. Lorenzo Bernini: descritta da Domenico Bernino, suo figlio, Roma 1713, p. 83).