Nowadays, when one refers, via text or photos, to this church, whose interior is extraordinarily richly decorated, attention is rarely, if ever, paid to this remarkable decoration on the outside.
There is no misunderstanding about what is depicted here: a Catholic dignitary steps on a moor: a man with a bare upper body, but with a turban still on his head. That vigorously acting figure even seems to be a sort of saint.
Much more attention is paid to the interior of the church: one look at the images below suffices to explains why. The exuberance of the decorations of this church and many churches that were later built everywhere can be seen as an important element of the Counter-Reformation. Austerity was a very important spearhead of all kinds of ecclesiastical movements that criticized ‘Rome’ fiercely.
At the so-called Council of Trent, which lasted from 1545 to 1563, this crisis was discussed extensively. The Jesuit answer was: don’t give in; on the contrary, impress the simple-minded. The Church of Gesú was constructed in the period 1568 to 1580.
And there it is: the link with Malta.
The beginning of the decline of the Ottoman Empire started on that small Island in 1565. Under the leadership of the Knights Hospitaller the overwhelming invasion force was repulsed.
Yes, in the 16th century the Roman church faced simultaneous attacks!
The first battle of Malta plays a rather important role in the ‘faction novel’ I wrote some years ago (only in Dutch: Alexandra’s reis; written under the name M.Terveel).
I made many photoos in Rome when I sought inspiration to write a sequel to it.