Famous Italians and Italians

Francesco Borromini - a brilliant Baroque architect

Francesco Borromini is an expressive and irrational baroque architect from Italy. The largest master of spatial building solutions, the author of several buildings and many interior decorations.


Francesco was born on September 25, 1599 in Ticino, an Italian-speaking canton in southern Switzerland. His real name is Castelli. Deciding to become a mason, Francesco continued the work of his father. As a young man, he became an apprentice stone carver in Lombardy (Lombardia). Then he goes to master the craft in Milan, and at the age of twenty he already works in Rome, under the supervision of a relative, Carlo Maderno. At this time, Maderno led the construction of the St. Peter's Basilica (Sancti Petri) in the Vatican (Stato della Città del Vaticano) and the Palazzo Barberini, he was able to arrange a young man for a well-paid position.

Michelangelo and Andrea Palladio influenced the style of the architect. Borromini's hallmark was the use of ovals instead of circles, complemented by the waviness of architectural compositions. He preferred to work with small forms, not aspiring to large-scale urban development projects.

His favorite materials were steel, brick, stone, gypsum and plaster. At the same time, Borromini preferred to break the lines, create subtle decor patterns, highlight the work with a dim light.

Bernini vs Borromini

The main rival of Francesco Borromini throughout his life was Giovanni Bernini (Giovanni Bernini), who was constantly patronized by many of the royal monks of the Vatican.

Bernini could prove himself in architecture, in painting, in sculpture, in mechanics and in writing plays (although almost nothing has survived to this day). Borromini remained only an architect, but technically he always turned out to be more competent and far-sighted opponent.

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Bernini worked easily and naturally, without difficulty receiving the most significant orders of the church. Borromini had to achieve everything with hard work, repeatedly listening to harsh criticism of the extravagant style of his work. Some common works of the two architects brought glory only to Bernini (for example, a canopy in St. Peter's Basilica), while the name of the second author was not mentioned.

Borromini was angry at his opponent in earnest, not missing the opportunity to humiliate and insult him. Learning about Giovanni's miscalculations in the construction of buildings and structures, Francesco was in no hurry to inform anyone about this. He was waiting for the right moment to enjoy the victory, destroying Bernini in the class hour.

This was the case when reconstructing the Pantheon, when Giovanni built two belfries resembling donkey ears. Or during the construction of the Fountain of the Four Rivers (Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi), when Bernini made a mistake in the calculations, but was able to correct it in time, without giving Borromini a reason for rejoicing.


Some time before the completion of the construction of the San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, Borromini was experiencing a severe depression, which destroyed all new projects for future buildings. After that, on August 8, 1667, he committed suicide.

The architect is buried in the church of San Giovanni de Fiorentini (Chiesa di San Giovanni dei Fiorentini). His grave is not decorated with a canopy, monument or altar, only the name Borromini is engraved on the tombstone.

Personal life

There is nothing known about the family and children of Francesco Borromini, perhaps they simply did not exist. Being a devout person and choosing for himself the path of serving God through the embodiment of his talent as an architect in the construction of churches and temples, he sacrificed his own family happiness. Next to him were several students to whom the master passed on his knowledge, but Borromini remained alone in his personal life.

Works in the palaces

A penchant for bizarre architectural details began to emerge at Borromini from the first days of work on large papal and significant orders. Careful elaboration of details together with a dizzying layout perfectly reflected the artist's skill. Elegant, majestic palaces with open courtyards take pride of place in Baroque architecture.

Palazzo barberini

Palazzo Barberini (Palazzo Barberini) was erected on the street of Delle Quattro Fontane (delle Quattro Fontane) in the east of Rome. Today it houses the National Art Gallery (Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica). Here Borromini first met his future rival Bernini.

The construction began in 1627 according to the project of Maderno and on the instructions of Pope Urban VIII (Urbanus PP. VIII). After the death of Maderno, Bernini took charge of the work, finishing it in 1633. Borromini became the author of the spiral staircase, rear facade, double columns and windows.

Recession Gallery

Palazzo Spada - the Roman palace of Cardinal Bernardino Spada, the construction of which took place at the beginning of the XVI century. Located in Piazza Capo Di Ferro in the historic center of Rome.

Recession bought the building in 1632 from Cardinal Pietro Paolo Mignanelli and immediately began reconstruction, entrusting the work of Borromini. The famous Galleria Spada is a 9-meter gallery, going through a low garden building to a statue of Mercury (60 centimeters high) in a small garden. The architect tilted the floor and installed columns and arches along the room, gradually reducing their size. The optical effect lengthens the corridor by 4 times and triples the statue.

Pamphili Palace

The facade of the Palazzo Pamphilj Palace overlooks Piazza Navona. The building designed by Girolamo Rainaldi was built from 1644 to 1650 for Pope Innocentius X (Innocentius PP. X). Borromini was invited to make adjustments to the layout of the palace.

According to the architect's plan, the main hall was decorated with stucco decorations and the gallery's decor on the ground floor was changed, decorating it with frescoes by Pietro da Cortona. Oval stairs also belong to the design of Borromini.

Palace Propaganda Fide

Palazzo di Propaganda Fide is located in the center of Rome in Piazza di Spagna on Via Frattina and belongs to the Holy See (la Santa Sede).

At first it belonged to the Jesuit Order, there were trained missionaries who converted pagans to Christians. Since 1627, Bernini was engaged in the reconstruction of the facade, and after the death of Pope Uranus VIII, Borromini continued his work. Today, the Museum of the Missionary Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (Congregatio pro Gentium Evangelizatione) is organized in the building.

Palace of Carpegna

In the Palazzo Carpegna Palace on the Piazza dell'Accademia di San Luca Square, the Gallery of the Academy of Saint Luke has been equipped since 1932.

The authorship of Borromini here belongs to the stairs and the main portal, a significant expansion of the space of the room.


The designs of the cathedrals and the basilica of Borromini are distinctive. Both general compositions and individual elements of the decor carry a strict personality of the author, often not accepted and criticized by contemporaries.

San Carlo Alle Cuatro Fontane

The name of the small Franciscan basilica "San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane" in translation means the church "St. Carlo at the Four Fountains."

The temple in white colors was erected according to the sketches of Borromini from 1638 to 1677 and became a vivid example of the curvilinearity of the Baroque era. The presence of 4 fountains at the crossing of Delle Quattro Fontane and del Quirinale streets was reflected in the name of the church. The customer of the construction work was the Order of the Holy Trinity (Ordo Sanctissimae Trinitatis). The building with cut corners and wave-like cornices was provided as the burial place of the author of the project, where he was assigned a chapel on the left, which did not become the grave of a talented Italian.

San Agnese in Agone

The church "Sant'Agnese in Agone" ("Basilica of St. Agnes") was erected in Piazza Navona.

Work on its construction began in 1651 by the architect Girolamo Rainaldi, the customer was Pope Innocentius X (Innocentius PP. X), from 1652 to 1655 Borromini worked on the project, construction was completed in 1672. The basilica was consecrated in honor of the holy Christian Agnes. At age 12, she took a vow of celibacy, and all the men who approached her with bad thoughts lost their male strength. Four altars were erected in the center of the octagonal cathedral; the martyr's skull is stored in the right transept.

Sant Andera delle Fratte

The Basilica of Sant'Andrea delle Fratte (Sant'Andrea delle Fratte) was built in honor of the great martyr Andrew and was erected on Via di Sant Andrea delle Fratte (Via di S. Andrea delle Fratte).

The temple has been functioning since the 12th century as the national church of the Scots, and subsequently it has undergone reconstruction many times. In 1585, Pope Sixtus V (Sixtus PP. V) handed it over to the monastic order of the Minims (Ordo Minimorum). Borromini worked on the building from 1653 until his death. According to his design, the dancing bell tower, the church dome and the adjacent semicircular ledge of the building were rebuilt. The artists Angelica Kauffmann and Orest Kiprensky, sculptor Rudolf Schadow are buried here.

Sant Ivo alla Sapienza

The Catholic Church "Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza" was erected in honor of St. Ivo of Breton. The building is the pinnacle of Borromini's craftsmanship. Located in the central area of ​​Rome on Corso del Rinascimento, a hundred meters from Navona.

The construction customer was Pope Urban VIII. The architect was asked to build a church between the two buildings of the university. He designed a hexagonal structure with a concave facade and a spiral dome, organically fitting all this splendor into a small space. The construction of the university church was from 1642 to 1662.

Oratorio Filippo Neri

The oratorio of the Filipino monks was to include a Filippo Neri chapel, a storage room for vestments and church utensils, cells, a monastery dining room and a reading room. According to the project, it is adjacent to the New Church (Chiesa Nuova) on the most comfortable street in the city of Del Governo Vecchio.

Borromini combined the architecture of Roman palaces and church themes, constructing a figured arch of the upper pediment, pilasters and an interesting alternation of pediments and windows.

The concave facade of the masonry of brick and the casing on the sides of two components are designed to personify the welcoming hands of the church.

Sant Andrea della Valle

The Church of St. Andrew in the Valley (Sant'Andrea della Valle) is the largest church that Borromini worked on, built by various craftsmen and architects from 1590 to 1650.

Located in Piazza Vidoni, at the intersection of Corso Vittorio Emmanuele and Corso del Rinascimento. In 1622, Borromini, under the leadership of Maderno, worked on the construction of a church dome.

Santa Maria dei Sette Dolori

The Church of St. Mary (Santa Maria dei Sette Dolori), founded by Camilla Farnese (Camilla Farnese), Duchess of Later (Latera), was erected on the street Garibaldi (Garibaldi) in the thirteenth district of Rome.

The construction began in 1642, in 1655 the work stopped due to the cessation of funding. According to the plan of Borromini, the temple has a rectangular shape with rounded corners. The external facade is decorated with bricks, the internal interior does not shine with the richness of decoration, although it is decorated with marble sculptures and paintings by Marco Benefial.

San Giovanni dei Fiorentini

The church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini (Chiesa di San Giovanni dei Fiorentini) is located on the Roman street Giulia (Giulia) and was originally built for the Florentine community in Rome.

The construction took more than 100 years, since 1509, the first architect was Antonio da Sangallo. In 1620, Carlo Maderno designed domes for the temple, and Borromini built a magnificent altar. Both architects were honored to be buried in this basilica for their services to church construction. This is the only church in the world where you can stay with dogs and cats.

Church of Saint Lucia in Selci

The Church of Saint Lucia in Selci (Chiesa di Santa Lucia in Selci) is a church hidden from prying eyes on the Roman Esquilinus hill (Mons Esquilinus).

The church was built at the beginning of the VI century. under Pope Symmachus PP, from 1534 belonged to the Order of St. Benedict (Ordo Sancti Benedicti), from 1568 passed to the Order of the Augustinians (Ordinis Sancti Augustine). In 1604, Carlo Maderno participated in the reconstruction of the church, from 1637 to 1638 the work was supervised by Francesco Borromini. He replaced the main altar, decorated the first left Lundy chapel and choir.

Capella San Giovanni In Oleo

The Chapel of San Giovanni In Oleo (Oratorio San Giovanni in Oleo) in the octagonal chapel, according to legend, was built where John the Baptist came out alive from a fire with hot oil. Located on the street of Porta Latina (di Porta Latina).

Borromini, participating in the reconstruction of the church, changed its interior, decorating it with a terracotta relief frieze with the image of roses and palm branches. He also installed a cross on the roof of the chapel.

San Giovanni in Laterano

The Church of St. John the Baptist on Lateran Hill (San Giovanni in Laterano) is superior in importance to all the churches of the world (including St. Peter's Basilica), as it is located near the Lateran Palace (Palazzo del Laterano), the residence of the bishops of Rome from the 4th century until the 14th century

From 1650 until death, the restoration of the temple was led by Borromini. He reconstructed the bronze doors of Curia Iulia, designed the niches of the main nave. Along the walls are statues of saints and prophets, constructed according to the sketches of the architect.

Work in the Vatican

Borromini was not such a favorite of the papal court as Bernini, but his work can be found in the Vatican. The undeniable talent of the architect went ahead of his time and contemporaries noticed and noted his ability to beautifully execute complex orders, especially when it came to limited space.

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Saint Paul's Cathedral

St. Peter's Basilica (Basilica di San Pietro) is the ceremonial center of the Roman Catholic Church, created by several generations of prominent architects.

The official foundation date is considered to be 1626. Borromini, together with Bernini, worked out a canopy project over the burial place of St. Peter, but only Bernini got the laurels. Also, Borromini built a pedestal for the Pieta Michelangelo, drew a sketch of a bronze lattice for the chapel of the Holy Communion (Santissimo Sacramento) and the gates of the Chapel of the Choir (Cappella del Coro), which have not survived to this day.

Watch the video: History of Arch Lecture 32 Baroque Part 3 Borromini & Bernini (April 2020).


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