Santa Maria del Popolo is a 15th century parish and convent church on the north side of the Piazza

del Popolo. It is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Thus, it carries a meaning of ‘Our Lady of the People’ to its name. Santa Maria del Popolo was built on the site of the Roman tomb, by Pope Paschal II in 1099. Emperor Nero was buried here on the slope of the Pincian hill. Locals complained that the site was haunted by Emperor Nero's ghost in the form of black crows, therefore the pope chopped down the walnut tree sheltering the crows and built a church in its place. The chapel was financed by the municipal authorities, the name del Popolo ("of the people") probably derives from its funding by the people of Rome, but it can also be explained by the Latin word populus, referring to a tree located nearby. The chapel was enlarged, and consecrated as a church in 1235 by Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241). Baccio Pontelli rebuilt the church and monastery between 1472 and 1479, making this one of the first Renaissance churches in Rome. It was ruined during the Sack of Rome in 1527. A Baroque restoration by Gian Lorenzo Bernini entailed alterations to the façade and interior. The church has a basilical plan. The roofs are pitched and tiled. The central dome is on an octagonal drum with an arched window in each face, and is hemispherical with eight pitches in lead. The simple and dignified early Renaissance façade is accessed by a flight of stairs from the level of the piazza, and is of two storeys in white travertine limestone. The Chigi Chapel is one of six chapels in the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo. The Chigi chapel, the second on the left-hand side of the nave, was built when banking mogul Agostino Chigi commissioned his favorite artist, Raphael, to design a memorial chapel tomb for him. However, both patron and artist died in 1520, by which time Raphael had barely begun construction. The Chigi Chapel was then completed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini more than a century after Raphael's death. Raphael gave the chapel a centralized octagonal plan, under a dome decorated with mosaics to his cartoon, representing the Creation of the World surrounded by the sun and the six know planets and a zodiac, each moved by an angel; The theme of the chapel being the prefiguration of the New Dispensation offered by the New Testament. The Chigi Chapel is replete with statues, bronze reliefs, paintings and marble revetments. The altarpiece of the chapel is a Birth of the Virgin by Sebastiano del Piombo, with a bronze basrelief panel on the altar front of Christ and the Samaritan Woman, the statues of Jonah, who prefigured the Resurrection, and Elijah, whose words were accounted prophesies of Christ's coming. Two niches across each other are interactive sculptures by Bernini, of Habakkuk and the Angel that took him by the hair and transported him to Babylon to succour Daniel, who is represented in the corresponding niche on the opposite wall. On the side walls are the matching wall tombs of Agostino Chigi and his brother Sigismondo, each represented in a medallion, looking expectantly towards the altar.

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