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The Baroque

Apr 25, 2008
Baroque architecture was brought to fruition in 17th-century Papal Rome and in many ways it is the final culmination of the earlier Renaissance. In the history of architecture, Baroque architecture is the triumph of drama and spectacle in Rome and beyond. It is manifested in a series of truly spectacular projects by the architects Gianlorenzo Bernini, Francesco Borromini and Pietro da Cortona which reflected the new political power of the papacy, as well as the renewed confidence of the whole church. As in previous centuries, the new directions in the history of architecture were subsequently mirrored over the rest of Italy, and then across the length and breadth of Europe. However, the influence of the Italian Baroque was felt most strongly on church design in the Catholic states, and on the projects of the royal and princely courts.

The great works of Roman Baroque architecture are typically large-scale, dramatic and exuberant in character, but there is a considerable variety of individual styles. The more conventional and classical manner of Bernini and later architects, such as Carlo Rainaldi and Carlo Fontana, represents the main stream of development, but the more individualistic and inventive approach of Borromini, which owes much to the works of Michelangelo, was to influence Guarino Guarini in Turin and provided the germ for the 18th-century Rococo movement led by Johann Balthasar Neumann and the Asam brothers in Germany and Central Europe. Meanwhile, in Spain and Portugal traditions were more insulated, although the buildings with their astonishingly elaborate decoration are no less spectacular.

The key projects of the Roman architects were to provide the basic models for major buildings in Europe for well over a century. St Peter's, recently completed with the addition of Carlo Maderno's nave (1606-12), provided the prototype for several other great domed churches of the 1 7th and 18th centuries: Fischer Von Erlach's Karlskirche in Vienna (begun 1716), Francois Mansart's Val-de-Grace (begun 1645) and Jules Hardouin-Mansart's Les Invalides (begun 1620) in Paris, and even Sir Christopher Wren's Protestant St Paul's Cathedral (1675) in London. New developments in the design of church facades, in particular the resourceful use of convex and concave elements pioneered by Cortona and Borromini and a more exciting handling of columns were to have a universal appeal to architects working in Catholic states. In palace design, the impetus also came initially from Roman architects whose ideas were taken up in Le Vau's Versailles: Neumann's Residenz at Wiirtzburg (begun 1719), Hildebrandt's Upper Belvedere (1721-2) in Vienna, as well as in royal palaces as far afield as Stockholm and St Petersburg (Leningrad). The great piazzas of Baroque Rome by Cortona, Rainaldi and Bernini would also soon be echoed by similar projects in other major cities, most notably Hardouin-Mansart's Place VenclOme (begun 1698) in Paris. A taste for grandiose planning was ultimately to sweep across Europe, the debt to Baroque Italy still being dimly reflected in the great scenic complexes of Restoration England, such as Vanbrugh and Hawksmoor's Blenheim Palace which was begun at 1705.
About the Author
Kewell is not a famous architect but an art and architecture buff who likes to travel everywhere. He also contributes to Architecture Talk . For more information please visit http://www.archilogy.com/
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