The Funerary Monument of Maria Raggi of Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Leaning against the last pillar of the left nave, stands the funerary monument, or cenotaph, of the venerable sister Maria Raggi o.p, youth work of the great baroque artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Bernini). Maria Raggi (1552-1600 from the island of Chios, went to live in Rome where she entered the third Dominican Order, after the death of her husband in 1570, and where she died. She spent a large part of her life in prayer and tradition attributed to her a large number of miracles. This monument was commissioned by her family and it was completed in 1647. It is made out of black and yellow marble, and in golden bronze, as a large drape which contains the portrait of the deceased supported by angels.
The large drape constitutes a major artistic innovation because Bernini wanted to leave it to posterity, sculpted in the hardness of the marble, the structure of provisional monuments which were used at the time on the occasion of funerals. The black marble is the symbol of death and the ineluctable destiny of man but the golden cross at the summit blocks the marble/death because it wants to show the face of the deceased, in a bronze circle which illustrates man’s hope of life after death. The Cross of Christ has conquered death. The sister is represented at the moment when she exhales and a stylistic point of view, she looks like S. Teresa in ecstasy of Bernini. Her face expresses a great serenity, because this is not the end but the beginning of true life in Christ.
Certainly this work of art surprises because of the effect given by the marble which seems as light as silk, and yet also touches us by something more profound. It makes us understand that the one who lives a life of friendship with Jesus Christ is not abandoned in the folds of death but is comforted by the vision of Salvation given by God, this same vision which is printed on the serene face of the venerable Maria Raggi.