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Inside the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome, Italy. 
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Inside the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome, Italy.

"Langdon and Vittoria dashed to the main entrance of the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria and found the wooden door locked. Vittoria fired three shots from Olivetti’s semi-automatic into the ancient bolt, and it shattered.
The church had no anteroom, so the entirety of the sanctuary spread out in one gasping sweep as Langdon and Vittoria threw open the main door. The scene before them was so unexpected, so bizarre, that Langdon had to close his eyes and reopen them before his mind could take it all in.
The church was lavish baroque...gilded walls and altars. Dead center of the sanctuary, beneath the main cupola, wooden pews had been stacked high and were now ablaze in some sort of epic funeral pyre. A bonfire shooting high into the dome. As Langdon’s eyes followed the inferno upward, the true horror of the scene descended like a bird of prey.
High overhead, from the left and right sides of the ceiling, hung two incensor cables — lines used for swinging frankincense vessels above the congregation. These lines, however, carried no incensors now. Nor were they swinging. They had been used for something else...
Suspended from the cables was a human being. A naked man. Each wrist had been connected to an opposing cable, and he had been hoisted almost to the point of being torn apart. His arms were outstretched in a spread–eagle as if he were nailed to some sort of invisible crucifix hovering within the house of God." (Dan Brown: Angels and Demons, 2000)

Wikipedia: "The church was begun in 1605 as a chapel dedicated to Saint Paul for the Discalced Carmelites. After the Catholic victory at the battle of White Mountain in 1620, which reversed the Reformation in Bohemia, the church was rededicated to the Virgin Mary. Turkish standards captured at the 1683 siege of Vienna hang in the church, as part of this theme of victory. The order itself funded the building work until the discovery in the excavations of the Borghese Hermaphroditus. Scipione Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V, appropriated this sculpture but in return funded the rest of work on the facade and granted the order his architect Giovanni Battista Soria. These grants only came into effect in 1624, and work was completed two years later.

The church is the only structure designed and completed by the early Baroque architect Carlo Maderno, though the interior suffered a fire in 1833 and required restoration. Its façade, however, was erected by Giovanni Battista Soria during Maderno's lifetime, 1624–1626, showing the unmistakable influence of Maderno's Santa Susanna nearby.

Its interior has a single wide nave under a low segmental vault, with three interconnecting side chapels behind arches separated by colossal corinthian pilasters with gilded capitals that support an enriched entablature. Contrasting marble revetments are enriched with white and gilded stucco angels and putti in full relief. The interior was sequentially enriched after Maderno's death; its vault was frescoed in 1675 with triumphant themes within shaped compartments with feigned frames: The Virgin Mary Triumphing over Heresy and Fall of the Rebel Angels executed by Giovanni Domenico Cerrini.

The masterpiece in the Cornaro Chapel, to the left of the altar, is Ecstasy of St. Teresa by Scipione's favored sculptor, Bernini. The statues depict a moment described by Saint Teresa of Avila in her autobiography, where she had the vivid vision of an angel piercing her heart with a golden shaft, causing her both immense joy and pain. The flowing robes and contorted posture abandon classical restraint and repose to depict a more passionate, almost voluptuous trance".

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Bernini's "Ecstasy of St. Teresa"The church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome
Inside the Santa Susanna church in Rome, Italy. 
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Inside the Santa Susanna church in Rome, Italy.

Wikipedia: "The Church of Saint Susanna at the baths of Diocletian (Italian: Chiesa di Santa Susanna alle Terme di Diocleziano) is a Roman Catholic parish church on the Quirinal Hill in Rome, with a titulus associated to its site that dates back to about 280. The modern church dedicated to Saint Susanna was rebuilt in 1585–1603.

In 1921, Pope Benedict XV authorized the Paulist Fathers to use Santa Susanna to create the national church in Rome of the United States of America. The first public Mass for the American community was celebrated by Cardinal William Henry O'Connell on February 26, 1922 and until today, the English–speaking Roman parish ministers to American Catholics living in or visiting Rome. [...]

The church consists of a single nave, with a circular apse forming two side-chapels. The frescoes of the central nave by Baldassare Croce represent six scenes from the life of Susanna found in the Book of Daniel. The frescoes on the curved side of the apse shows Saint Susanna being threatened by Maximian, but defended by the angel of God and to the right, Susanna refusing to worship the idol Jupiter. Nebbia's frescoes of the dome of the apse depict Santa Susanna flanked on either side by angels with musical instruments. Behind the high altar, the painting depicting the beheading of Santa Susanna is by Tommaso Laureti".

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Inside the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, Italy. 
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Inside the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, Italy.
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The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, RomeThe Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome: a mosaic in the main naveThe Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome
Inside the church of Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill in Rome, Italy. 
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Inside the church of Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill in Rome, Italy.

Wikipedia: The Basilica of Saint Sabina at the Aventine is a titular minor basilica and mother church of the Roman Catholic Dominican order in Rome, Italy. Santa Sabina lies high on the Aventine Hill, beside the Tiber, close to the headquarters of the Knights of Malta.

Santa Sabina is an early basilica (5th century), with a classical rectangular plan and columns. The decorations have been restored to their original modesty, mostly white. Together with the light pouring in from the windows, this makes the Santa Sabina an airy and roomy place. Other basilicas, such as Santa Maria Maggiore, are often heavily and gaudily decorated. Because of its simplicity, the Santa Sabina represents the crossover from a roofed Roman forum to the churches of Christendom.

Santa Sabina was built by Priest Petrus of Illyria, a Dalmatian priest, between 422 and 432 on the site of the house of the Roman matron Sabina, who was later declared a Christian saint. It was originally near a temple of Juno.

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Inside the church of Sant'Alessio on the Aventine Hill in Rome, Italy. 
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Inside the church of Sant'Alessio on the Aventine Hill in Rome, Italy.

It was built in the 3rd or 4th century, and originally dedicated to St. Boniface the Martyr. It is therefore sometimes referred to as Santi Boniface e Alessio. In the 10th century, the church became a centre for the Benedictines and a departure point for some of the most important evangelizers at that time; St. Adalbert of Prague once set out from this church on his mission. In 1217, it was also dedicated to St. Alexis, the name by which it is known today.

The present church was built in the time of Pope Honorius III (1216–1227), and altered by T. de Marchis in 1750 on the orders of Angelo Maria Quirini. After 1846, when the Somaschi Fathers were installed here, further alterations have been carried out.

The church has beautiful Cosmatesque work on the floor, doorway and the two small columns of the choir. On one of the columns, there is an inscription naming the artists as Laurentius and stating that there were 19 columns. The fathers in the church say that the 17 missing columns were carried off by Napoleon. A statue of St. Alexis stands above an altar by the door. It shows him in pilgrim's clothes, clasping the letter which revealed his identity after death. The statue is by Andrea Bergondi, and was made in the late 18th century. Parts of the staircase that the saint lived beneath are preserved here. The crypt is from the 10th or 13th century. It's closed to the public most of the year, but at Christmas a crib, one of the most popular in Rome, is set up here. The crypt is in the Romanesque style; it is the only crypt in that style in Rome. Relics said to be of St. Thomas Becket of Canterbury are preserved here. (Text based on the Churches of Rome Wikia).

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Thursday, Nov 2, 2017: On the walls of Palácio da Pena in Sintra, Portugal
Palácio da Pena
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