Original Artwork at St. Teresa of Avila

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Monument to the Unborn


Ecstasy of Saint Teresa

Ecstacy of St. Teresa of Avila
(Baroque marble work – in the Cornaro Chapel in the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, Roma, Italia)
Artist: Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598 - 1680)

In the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila (“Life Written By Herself,” 1565), she speaks of an angel coming to stab her with a flaming arrow and thereby lighting in her heart the flame of God’s love...

“The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it, even a large one. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His goodness to make others experience it who may think that I am lying....”

“God is the source of every pleasure, and He desires our joy in all that is created; but on this side of Heaven, every pleasure is followed by pain.”

“We need no wings to go in search of Him, but have only to find a place where we can be alone - and look upon Him present within us.”

St. Teresa of Avila (St. Teresa of Jesus)
(born – Teresa Sanchez)
Saint and Doctor of the Church
(beautified April 24, 1614, and canonized March 12, 1622, when the date of her death was set eleven days later than it actually was)
(named one of thirty-three Doctors, September 27, 1970 – and first woman of three to be so honored)
born at Avila, March 28, 1515 ! died at Alba de Tormes, October 4, 1582 ! Feast Day - October 15th

The Ecstacy of St. Teresa of Avila as the sculpture currently is displayed.....

Pope Urban VIII, in 1623, put Bernini in charge of building operations at St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, where one of his early works, 1624-33, was the canopy [baldachin] over the high altar. He also created, 1657-66, the soaring marble, gilded bronze and stucco Chair of St. Peter [Cathedra Petri] for the Basilica.

Bernini's baroque style was a powerful influence on the architecture of his period. His most famous architectural works are the symmetrical curved colonnades of St. Peter's, the facade of Barberini's palace, and the arsenal at Civita Vecchia. Late in his career Bernini designed a series of three churches, culminating in the domed Sant' Andrea al Quirinale, 1658-70, in Rome. In sculpture, Bernini's masterwork is the Cornaro Chapel at the Church of S. Maria della Vittoria in Rome, commissioned by Cardinal Patriarch Federico Cornaro (G-17). The centerpiece is The Ecstasy of S. Teresa of Avila, a large statue designed to be illuminated by reflected light from a hidden window. The figures of S. Teresa and an angel are seen upon a stage, witnessed by seven Cardinals and a Doge of the Cornaro family looking on from flanking balconies.

BAROQUE: 17thCentury

The Northern European countries pulled further and further away from the Catholic Church and the influence of the Pope, all eventually succumbing to the teaching and influence of Martin Luther and what is now referred to as the “Protestant Reformation.” Luther emphasized music over visual images; therefore, churches in these regions were stripped of imagery and became less influential to art.

During this same period, a rich array of subjects and materials developed in the Southern countries, and is attributed to the Catholic Church fighting back against Protestantism with a movement called the “Counter-Reformation.” Art worked on two levels: “it was didactic and propaganda” (it taught profound lessons and sought to persuade others to agree with the lesson presented). There was a renewed interest to involve the observer of the art, to not only teach a lesson, but to have them participate with human feelings/emotions. Emphasis was placed on directness and clarity instead of symbolism and rhetoric. Some artists returned to imitating the "classical ideal", while others moved toward a more naturalized art.

Basic characteristics covered as being “Baroque” are: viewer participation, variety of subjects and materials, dramatic lighting and displaying of emotions, asymmetrical balancing, violent movement, extreme contrasts, and capturing a moment in time (freeze-framing), and the baroque artists take the interpretation of realism in many directions.

One great artist emerged in the 17th century Italy: Bernini, a sculptor and architect, did a brilliant job of involving the spectator into his creations. A very good example of this is in the Corona Chapel where he created the “St. Teresa in Ecstacy” altarpiece. St. Teresa is portrayed swooning in sexual ecstasy as the angel is thrusting the arrow symbolic of Jesus’ love into her breast. He has the event taking place as if it is on stage. Even box seats with members of the Corona family are watching the drama unfold. Professor Nellie Miller, Art History.