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Sant'Andrea della Valle

Posted by
MadScientist (Düsseldorf, Germany) on 16 July 2008 in Architecture.

A few months ago we already took a glimpse at the altar apse of Sant'Andrea della Valle (St. Andrew in the valleys). Today we're again visiting this big Titular church with the second largest dome in Rome (after St. Peter's; 16.10 metres in diameter and 80 metres high). Three large paintings in the half-dome of the sanctuary depict the martyrdom of St. Andrew (if you want to know where the Cross of St. Andrew has it's name from: just look). They are executed by Mattia Preti, also known as Calabrese.

Even if I'm running into danger of repeating myself: I was there one hour before sunset and the only source of light (besides the windows in the cupola) were these glowers on the altar. I didn't know how much information was hidden in this photo before processing it. Without the possibilities of digital image processing getting an acceptable image of darker interiors would be a *very* painful task.

Michael Skorulski from Cigel, Slovakia

What a grand and beautiful place!

16 Jul 2008 5:48am

@Michael Skorulski: This church is indeed different: the High Altar is quite small and makes room for these three paintings.

Ted from South Wales, United Kingdom

Nice capture.

16 Jul 2008 9:07am

@Ted: Thanks, Ted!

Michael from Wuppertal, Germany

Einfach Klasse! Du hast da echt ein "Händchen" für diese Aufnahmen!

16 Jul 2008 9:27am

@Michael: Danke! Händchen und Stativ wäre noch besser gewesen :-)

MaryB from Staffordshire, United Kingdom

These churches are magnificent, another breathtaking shot MS.

16 Jul 2008 10:21am

@MaryB: Thank you so much! There are still more wonderful places to visit, word!

Tracey from White Hall, United States

My favorite part of the whole picture is the window at the top! ;0) Thanks for the info yesterday, and while I have never tried to get into a cathedral here in the U.S., I am fairly certain that most "regular" churches are locked when no one is there. Sad.

16 Jul 2008 12:42pm

@Tracey: Hehe, I agree, when publishing this photo I wondered if I should have clicked the 'violence' warning button. But of course, I didn't do that. The depiction of St. Andrew's suffering is quite decent, every crime TV show has more blood and violence. The origins of Christianity are violent (the Colosseum is virtually soaked with the blood of early Christians), and the crimes in the name of God still are; violence is an everyday phenomenon and I think this was more obvious when Calabrese worked at his paintings than it is today. We want to believe that crime, violence and torture are products coming from sick minds, or that they are born in extreme situations and that we can control them through the law and by jailing the bad ones. However, I don't think so. The cultural varnish of mankind is a very thin one and the old ape is still within us, violence is still a vital part of our existence. Calabrese's paintings remind us of that, and this is a bitter memento. (Though there are some aspects in the depiction of Christ's suffering, especially in early Baroque churches, that I don't like and that were changed for the better thanks to protestant influence. But this would be another story.)

Cathedrals in the US - well, I'm an old-world catholic, so I'm getting quite highbrow when it comes to churches (call me superficial if you want ;-) I wouldn't be in the right mood without old rich decors, colourful stained glass windows and lots of marble. I guess the southern US would be a good place to start, at least a catholic church in a wealthy parish. I wouldn't be too happy with the assembly-rooms of protestant or other evangelical churches (call me arrogant if you want ;-)

But if you want to enter a church, just ask the priest or the sacristan - if they wouldn't be pleased to let you in then there's something wrong with that church!

António Pires from Lisbon, Portugal

The exposure level of this shot is adequate to give a correct idea of the light, or lack of it, inside the church. A longer exposure time, although it could bring th details into light, wouldn't give the right idea about the ambiance in the church.

16 Jul 2008 1:04pm

@António Pires: I have another shot of this place, taken at a different day, when the lights were on: completely different atmosphere. The original of my photo for today was very dark with a quite cold atmosphere, as dusk had already begun and there was very few light. With my processing I tried to reconstruct the original colours as much as possible without disturbing the atmosphere, and I'm glad you like it! I'm still learning this image processing stuff and I'm not nearly sure about what I'm doing there :-)

Observing from West Cheshire, United Kingdom

Majestic...! Incredible details in this atmospheric picture.

16 Jul 2008 3:21pm

@Observing: I have one with better illumination and more details that I'll show sometime. This one you can see here is the result of pixel torture :-)

JoeB from Brampton, Canada

I'm fascinated by the form of crucifixion, and how it became a national symbol.

16 Jul 2008 4:03pm

@JoeB: Or a toy for... well, do a search on 'Saint Andrew's Cross' at Wikipedia :-D

Ina from Krugersdorp, South Africa

Lovely light and colors, I like it :)

16 Jul 2008 5:43pm

@Ina: Thanks a lot! That was not easy as the original image was extremely dark.

Laurent from Lyon, France

very nice baroque decoration. The light is very good also on this one

16 Jul 2008 6:46pm

@Laurent: If you could see the original... ;) I'll post a better one sometime, this one here is a mere technical practice :)

Steven from Chicagoland, United States

Such powerful paintings in their imagery. They only add to the beauty of what you have captured. I like your reference to the light sources on the altar as "glowers." I first thought they may have been exposed incandescent light bulbs. ;-)

16 Jul 2008 9:40pm

@Steven: You're completely right, that are indeed light bulbs! 'Glowers' was just a suggestion of my dictionary, as I was looking for a word less ordinary than 'lamp'! :-)
Btw, when I was in Florence 25 years ago, I noticed these ultra-ugly electric lights at the offertory boxes: when you dumped a coin one of the bulbs was lit! When all bulbs were lit a cleric came out and did a sort of 'reset', thus switching off the light. I've never seen a practice like that before and I'm glad that I don't see it anymore! Hilarious! :-D

Twelvebit from Victoria, United States

I know first hand the pain of film photography: in the old days I used to do all my own processing. I developed all my film --B&W, color negative, or color transparency-- and did all my printing. Some of the things I can do now, in about five minutes, without chemicals and a darkroom, would have taken me all night back then --for a much inferior result.

16 Jul 2008 10:40pm

@Twelvebit: No doubt about that! My motivation is to rediscover all the details in photos I almost was trying to delete and I'm still intrigued by the possibilities of image processing. However, we had a small B/W photo laboratory in school and developing our own photos was really interesting and entertaining.

Japanalia from Yokohama, Japan

I think the lighting goes very well with the drama in the paintings. I like it as it is! And those people passing by, almost like a row of shadows, add to the interest. It makes the space alive!

20 Jul 2008 2:40pm

@Japanalia: Wait until you see my image with better lightning! That makes a big difference!