The animal is so small that it was nicknamed the chick of Minerva and the artist Gianlorenzo Bernini positioned the disrespectful back of the animal towards the court of Inquisition once run by the Dominicans priests.
The court forced the Italian physicist Galileo Galileo to recant and he lived the rest of his life house arrested and burnt, in the nearby Campo de' Fiori square, the philosopher Giordano Bruno belonging to the same Dominican order.
Once inside, on the left side of the main altar you can find Michelangelo statue of Jesus holding the Cross. The little cloth was added by the prudish Dominicans, while the slippers, also added for modesty, were later removed.
This was the second version of the statue as the first Christ revealed a black imperfection of the marble while Michelangelo was sculpting his face.
Under the main altar the body of St. Catherine of Siena lies in a marble case, not with the all body though, as her head and one finger are in Siena, a rim is in Belgium and her left hand in the Monastery of Holy Rosary of Monte Mario in Rome.
Thank God (the guides thank her every day for this), she convinced the Popes to leave Avignon to return to Rome therefore she was proclaimed doctor of the church even if she was illiterate.
Behind the altar, two important Popes lie in their monumental tombs since 1500s: Leo X who was a childhood friend of Michelangelo and Clement VII who caused the terrible Sack of Rome in 1527.
The two popes were cousins belonging to the powerful Medici family of Florence and they can be seen again, at a younger age, in the nearby Carafa Chapel, on the right side of the transept. They are the two young boys talking near the prior of the Church in the fresco of St. Thomas confounds heresy. The painter Filippino Lippi was recommended to the Cardinal Carafa by the father of one of the two boys, the famous Lawrence the Magnificent.
The Chapel Carafa is an extraordinary work of art by Filippino Lippi, which reveals the love for antiquary expecially on fake painted squared columns on the side of the main stories and the love for miniature details in the background. Notice the giraffe in the triumphal procession behind the figures of apostles staring at the Assumption of Mary. The artist had seen the giraffe in Florence at the court of Lawrence.
The commissioner, the cardinal Oliviero Carafa, is instead kneeling in the Annunciation framed in the centre of the painting and many symbols are connected to his name (the olive branch) and his shield can be seen in the background behind Mary and the Angel.
For any further information, contact me on http://www.visitrome.guide