Sacred Sunday: 16th Century Architecture

Tempietto di San Pietro in Montorio, Rome, 1502, by Bramante. This small temple marks the place where St Peter was put to death.

Tempietto di San Pietro in Montorio, Rome, 1502, by Bramante. This small temple marks the place where St Peter was put to death.

By the 15th century, Gothic architecture in Christian building began to give way to a newer design – Renaissance architecture. This new wave of creativity in building design is considered to be the period between the early 15th and early 17th centuries in different regions of Europe. It demonstrated a conscious revival and development of certain elements of ancient Greek and Roman thought and material culture. Stylistically, and if you remember your high school art appreciation class, Renaissance architecture followed Gothic architecture and was succeeded by Baroque architecture.

Developed first in Florence, with Filippo Brunelleschias one of its innovators, the Renaissance style quickly spread to other Italian cities. The style was carried to France, Germany, England, Russia and other parts of Europe at different dates and with varying degrees of impact.

Italy of the 15th century, and the city of Florence in particular, was home to the Renaissance. It is in Florence that the new architectural style had its beginning, not slowly evolving in the way that Gothic grew out of Romanesque, but consciously brought to being by particular architects who sought to revive the order of a past “Golden Age”. The scholarly approach to the architecture of the ancient coincided with the general revival of learning. A number of factors were influential in bringing this about.

Chiesa dell'Incoronata: Interior of the dome 1586-88 Photo Piazza Garibaldi, Sabbioneta

Chiesa dell’Incoronata: Interior of the dome
1586-88
Photo
Piazza Garibaldi, Sabbioneta

This church has an octagonal plan and is topped with a dome and contains the bronze mausoleum of Vespasian Gonzaga whom Leone Leoni (1509-1590) made a statue of in bronze, dressed as a Roman emperor.

Galleria degli Antichi: Exterior 1583-84 Photo Galleria degli Antichi, Sabbioneta

Galleria degli Antichi: Exterior
1583-84
Photo
Galleria degli Antichi, Sabbioneta

Galleria degli Antichi: Interior 1583-84 Photo Galleria degli Antichi, Sabbioneta

Galleria degli Antichi: Interior
1583-84
Photo
Galleria degli Antichi, Sabbioneta

Sabbioneta is about 30 kms north of Parma. Built in the 1580s, this Italian town is the work of Vespasiano Gonzaga. His plan was to create the ideal city and base it on the ideas of ancient Athens and Rome. When Vespasiano died this dream died with him. The Galleria degli Antichi was built between 1584 and 1586 by Duke Vespasiano for his collection which contained mostly ancient marbles purchased from collectors and dealers of Rome and Venice.

Palazzo Albrizzi 1590s Photo Rio di San Cassiano, Venice

Palazzo Albrizzi
1590s
Photo
Rio di San Cassiano, Venice

This palace, built in the 16th century in Venetian Gothic style (at that time becoming an outated and misplaced style), overlooks the canal San Cassiano at the Ponte delle Tette. On the façade there is a three-mullioned central arched window, flanked by pairs of single lancet windows with projecting stone cornices which act as a small roof.

Between 1690 and 1710 the interior space was totally redefined with an excessive use of decoration and stucco-work, which makes the palace one of the most ostentatious in Venice.

San Giovanni a Carbonara: Cappella Caracciolo di Vico 1516 Photo Via San Giovanni, Naples

San Giovanni a Carbonara: Cappella Caracciolo di Vico
1516
Photo
Via San Giovanni, Naples

The Cappella Caracciolo di Vico has a central plan and is covered by a dome. This is one of the most notable products of the architecture of the sixteenth century in southern Italy. Begun in 1499 and completed in 1516, this is a remarkable structure, with great equilibrium among its various elements, revealing, at a very early date, the presence in Naples of the earliest forms of the Roman Renaissance. The design should be ascribed to an architect who was well informed concerning the work then being done by Bramante and Sangallo. The tombs of Nicolantonio and Galeazzo Caracciolo is the work of Annibale Caccavello (1515-1595) and Giovanni Domenico d’Auria (d. 1573).

Italian architects had always preferred forms that were clearly defined and structural members that expressed their purpose. Many Tuscan Romanesque buildings demonstrate these characteristics, as seen in the Florence Baptistery and Pisa Cathedral.

Italy had never fully adopted the Gothic style of architecture. Apart from the Cathedral of Milan, (influenced by French Rayonnant Gothic), few Italian churches show the emphasis on vertically, the clustered shafts, ornate tracery and complex ribbed vaulting that characterize Gothic in other parts of Europe.

The presence, particularly in Rome, of ancient architectural remains showing the ordered Classical style provided an inspiration to artists at a time when philosophy was also turning towards the Classical.

Renaissance style places emphasis on symmetry, proportion, geometry and the regularity of parts as they are demonstrated in the architecture of classical antiquity and in particular ancient Roman architecture, of which many examples remained. Orderly arrangements of columns, pilasters and lintels, as well as the use of semicircular arches, hemispherical domes, niches and aedicules replaced the more complex proportional systems and irregular profiles of medieval buildings.

Next week, we head to Rome for 12th century mosaics of the church San Clemente on Sacred Sunday.

Crash

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