Chiesa Sant’Agnese is a small domed church designed by Boromini, a contemporary of Bernini and a rival who never made it to his competitor’s stature. In my book he had nothing to be ashamed of, he just had a competitor that was outstanding and well connected. The work he was assigned was smaller in scale but he did a magnificent job of making the interiors zoom in space.
Chiesa Sant’Agnese is often termed “St. Agnes in Agony’ but this gives an incorrect translation of ‘Agone.” Agone means ‘games’ and also refers to the stadium built by Diocletian starting in 80 AD, with a circle track. So perhaps we should say “St Agnes at the Track,” as irreverent as that may seem.
The church sits on what we now call Piazza Navona, originally called “Circus Agonalis” (circus is a circle, just like Circo Massimo, Circus Maximus). Apparently the name Agonoalis morphed into Navona. Aside from the track shape of the plaza and the buildings facing it, the main feature of the plaza is Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers). Continue reading →