Walter De Maria and the hidden geometries in the churches of Rome

San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, Rome

There are interesting geometries in Rome, hidden among the sinuous forms of the Baroque. They were pointed out to me by the great protagonist of Land Art Walter De Maria who, although he rarely left his fortress-studio in a former power plant in New York City’s East Village, had no need to be convinced to come to Rome. And so, in the breaks we were able to take while setting up his exhibition in the gallery, I was able to look with new eyes at that intricate web of geometric designs decorating the dome of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane designed by Francesco Borromini in the first half of the 17th century.

Walter De Maria, The 5-7-9 Series, Installation View, Gagosian Rome. Photo: Matteo Piazza. Courtesy Gagosian

In those days spent with Walter, we made another surprising visit, this time to the church of San Francesco a Ripa in Trastevere, where Giorgio de Chirico rests just a few chapels away from the very sensual Beata Ludovica Albertoni sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1674. By asking the parish priest, if you find him in a good mood, you can go up behind the high altar and enter the small cell that is said to have hosted St. Francis during his visit to the Pope at the beginning of the 13th century. In a truly mystical atmosphere I am unable to forget, the cell holds various relics of the saint and even his pillow: a parallelepiped-shaped stone.

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BaroqueItinerariesLazioReligious architectureRome