Artibus et Historiae no. 5 (III)

1982, ISSN 0391-9064

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KEVIN ORLIN JOHNSON - In Ivonem Explanationes: The Meaning and Purpose of S. Ivo alla Sapienza

The Chapel of S. Ivo at the University of Rome has remained problematic for historians of art and architecture because of its highly unusual form and decoration which although obviously intended to carry some signification convey no clear meaning to the modern observer.

The present work examines the aims and ideas of the patron, Urban VIII Barberini, the history and nature of the University, and their interaction in a specific historical context in order to approach an explanation of the chapel. The liturgies that the chapel was designed to accommodate are examined and their effects on the chapel's form and decoration described; the ultimate source of the unprecedented plan of the chapel is revealed as the so-called Key of Solomon, a universally-known mystical manual that described ceremonies for the invocation of wisdom for the benefit of students - ceremonies that in textual and scriptural reference, and in program and intent, closely parallel the Tridentine liturgies of Pentecost and Ordination, for which the University chapel was primarily required.

The paper ends with a brief examination of the significance of the choice of the title of S. Ivo, also based on contemporary documents not previously admitted to discussions of the chapel, which title acts as a lynchpin in uniting and reconciling the various liturgical and academic programs present in the chapel.

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