One of the most striking things about Rome’s churches — and about Italian churches in general — is that they are full of representations of the angels. American churches in contrast, especially those built in the last fifty years, are strangely devoid of angelic imagery. In Italian churches there are angels everywhere: all sorts of angels. There are majestic angels of graceful athletic appearance, angels in splendid apparel playing musical instruments, and playful little angels with fat cheeks and chubby legs. In Italian churches, one is always conscious of praising God in conspectu angelorum, “in the sight of the angels” (Ps 137:1).
The Angels at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
In the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, the angels are associated with the mystery of the Cross. The glorious Cross is depicted throughout the basilica and around it there are always angels — jubilant, praising, adoring, wondering angels! There is a theology in this iconography of the Cross. The