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Oct 26, 2013

SS. Luke and Martina: Pietro da Cortona's two souls.

The church of St. Luke and Martina was designed by Pietro da Cortona next to the building which housed the Academy of St. Luke  till 1931, on the site where originally a VII century chapel to Santa Martina (martyr Septimius Severus) was erected,  facing the Arch of Septimus Severus and the Roman Forum. 

Bust of Pietro da Cortona by Bernardino Fioriti.
(lower church).
His tombstone can be seen on the floor of the nave (upper church).
In 1634, when Pietro da Cortona became the director of the Accademia, he requested to build his own funerary monument in the church.  But surprisingly during the construction of his chapel the body of Santa Martina was unearthed. 

Santa Martina (main altar) by Nicola Menghini (1635).

To celebrate the event cardinal Francesco Barberini, pope Urban VIII's nephew, commissioned Cortona the project of a new church in honor of Martina but also dedicated to St. Luke (patron saint of painters) for the building was owned by St. Luke Academy (the guild of artists founded in 1577). 

Symbols of the Evangelists

The remarkable stuccoes are by Camillo Rusconi, G. Battista Maini, Filippo della Valle.
Completed in 1730.

Cortona's plan is based on a Greek cross.  The dome is ribbed and it's supported by a tall drum, lightened by huge windows, rhythmically undulated.  The windows are adorned by garlands, shells, scrolls and female heads.  The dome and the vault are coffered and decorated with the Barberini bees and laurel, lilies for chastity and palms of martyrdom. 

The shrine of Santa Martina was designed by P. da Cortona
and cast by Giovanni Artusi.

In the crypt the shrine with the remains of Santa Martina.  The materials are colored, the plan is more complex.  A striking contrast with the upper monumental church, austere and white, almost entirely decorated with white stuccoes (surprising, considering da Cortona was primarily a painter).   Around this time also Borromini adopted white stucco for S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane).  Preminence is given to architecture.  They could have been influenced by Palladio who retained 'white' the most appropriate color for churches.

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