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In sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Rome, we witness the move from the Mannerist style, so evident in the architectural works of Michelangelo (1475-1564), to the Baroque of Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680). We can plot the development of these styles in the many churches built by the papacy and religious orders of the time. Three in particular demonstrate the issues involved in building churches in Early Modern Rome : St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican; the Jesuit church of Il Gesù, and the beautiful little church of San Andrea al Quirinale, built by Bernini.
Giovanni Giacomo de Rossi, Insignium Romae templorum prospectus exteriores interioresque a celebrioribus architectisinveni nunc tandem suis cum plantis ac mensuris a Io. Iacobo de Rubeis Romano suis typis in lucem editi ad aedem pacis cum privilegio summi pontificis. Anno. 1684. (Rome, 1684), plate 17 (front elevation of Church of St. Agnes, Rome).
The Church of Sant’ Agnese in Agone on Piazza Navona in Rome was designed and built by three architects: Carlo Rainaldi (1611-1691), Francesco Borromini (1599-1667) and Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680). The church gets its name from Saint Agnes, who was martyred in the Stadium of Domitian (now Piazza Navona) in the first century AD. It was commissioned by the powerful Pamphili family whose palazzo was adjacent. Carlo Rainaldi’s father, Girolamo Rainaldi (1570-1655), was the initial architect and he produced a Greek Cross plan. As this image demonstrates, his son changed the plan to include a recessed, concave façade, and two twin towers (reminiscent of Bernini’s bell towers at St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican). Borromini, who replaced the Rainaldi’s in Pamphili favour in 1653, added curved steps down to the Piazza Navona; later, Bernini would add the pediment.
Filippo Buonanni, Numismata pontificum Romanorum quae a tempore Martini V. usque ad annum 1699 (Rome, 1699), vol. 2, plate facing p. 552 (plan of Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Rome).
The Church of St Ignatius was built in the seventeenth century to mark the canonization of two Jesuit saints, St Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556) and St Francis Xavier (1506-1552). Begun in 1626 (four years after their canonization), it was completed in 1650. It initially served as a chapel for the Jesuit Roman College, until the latter was reconstructed during the pontificate of Gregory XIII (1572-1585). Designed by a Jesuit, Orazio Grassi (1583-1654), the plan of the Church of St. Ignatius clearly shows the influence of Il Gesù.
Filippo Buonanni, Numismata pontificum Romanorum quae a tempore Martini V. usque ad annum 1699 (Rome, 1699), vol. 2, plate after p. 553 (longitudinal section of Church of St Ignatius of Loyola, Rome).
Though the focus here is on the Baroque churches of Rome in the seventeenth century, Worth’s collection also included images of Baroque churches elsewhere. Included in his copy of Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach’s Entwurff Einer Historischen Architectur is a perspective view of his University Church at Salzburg. This was commissioned by Johan Ernest von Thun (1643-1709, Prince-archbishop of Salzburg, and, as Fischer von Erlach informs us, had a threefold porch, an oval vestibule, four oval chapels, two steeples, two great side altars, and a great cupola.
Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, Entwurff Einer Historischen Architectur: in Abbildung unterschiedener berühmten Gebäude des Alterthums und fremder Völcker; umb aus den Geschicht-büchern, Gedächtnüß-münzen, Ruinen, und eingeholten wahrhafften Abrißen, vor Augen zu stellen (Leipzig, 1725), Book 4, plate 9, Kollegienkirche, Salzburg.
Dotson, Esther Gordon and Mark Richard Ashton, J. B. Fischer von Erlach. Archtecture as Theater in the Baroque Era (Yale University Press, 2012).
Fischer von Erlach, Johann Bernhard, Entwurff Einer Historischen Architectur: in Abbildung unterschiedener berühmten Gebäude des Alterthums und fremder Völcker; umb aus den Geschicht-büchern, Gedächtnüß-münzen, Ruinen, und eingeholten wahrhafften Abrißen, vor Augen zu stellen (Leipzig, 1725).
Hopkins, Andrew, Italian Architecture from Michelangelo to Borromini (London, 2002).
Lotz, Wolfgang, Architecture in Italy 1500-1600 revised by Deborah Howard (Yale University Press,1995).
Whitman, Nathan T., ‘Roman Tradition and the Aedicular Façade’, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 29, no 2. (1970), 108-123.
Text: Elizabethanne Boran, Librarian of the Edward Worth Library.