Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza

The swirling, curling dome of this baroque church plays peek-a-boo with pedestrians on the surrounding streets—good thing, as the church itself is hidden in a courtyard

Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza
Corso Rinascimento 40
tel. +39-06-361-2562
Courtyard open irregular hours (roughly business hours), but closed Saturdays
Church open Sundays 9am–noon (closed July–Aug)—this is not a big deal, since it's really the exterior you come to see

Sant'Ivo tours

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The culy-cue dome atop Sant'Ivo
The curlicue dome atop Sant'Ivo.
Beyond a nondescript doorway halfway along the boulevard that parallels Piazza Navona, it a courtyard hiding one of the loveliest baroque churches in Rome.

Borromini designed the courtyard of Giacomo della Porta's Palazzo della Sapienza in the 1640s, surrounding three sides with porticoes and the back with the magnificent glowing white facade of Sant'Ivo church. (Palazzo della Sapienza means "palace of learning" and this was the seat of Rome's university from the 15th century until 1935.)

This geometrically complex and highly influential baroque playground of concave and convex curves is topped by a remarkable spiraling oval dome that looks an awful lot like soft-serve ice cream and subsequently became a favorite feature on baroque churches throughout northern Europe.

Although the light-filled oval interior is fine as well, don't let the church's brief open hours put you off, because the best part really is that facade.


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This article was written by Reid Bramblett and was last updated in April 2013. All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 2008–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett