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".