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Baroque architecture is a highly decorative and theatrical style which appeared in Italy in the early 17th century and gradually spread across Europe. It was originally introduced by the Catholic church, particularly by the Jesuits, as a means to combat the Reformation and the Protestant church with a new architecture that inspired surprise and awe. It reached its peak in the High Baroque (1625–1675), when it was used in churches and palaces in Italy, Spain, Portugal and France, and Austria. In the Late Baroque period (1675–1750), it reached as far as Russia and the Spanish and Portuguese colonies in Latin America, Beginning in about 1730, an even more elaborately decorative variant called Rococo appeared and flourished in Central Europe.[1][2]

Baroque architects took the basic elements of Renaissance architecture, including domes and colonnades, and made them higher, grander, more decorated, and more dramatic. The interior effects were often achieved with the use of Quadratura, or trompe-l'oeil painting combined with sculpture; The eye is drawn upward, giving the illusion that one is looking into the heavens. Clusters of sculpted angels and painted figures crowd the ceiling. Light was also used for dramatic effect; it streamed down from cupolas, and was reflected from an abundance of gilding. Twisted columns were also often used, to give an illusion of upwards motion, and cartouches and other decorative elements occupied every available space. In Baroque palaces, grand stairways became a central element.[3]

The Early Baroque (1584–1625) was largely dominated by the work of Roman architects, notably the Church of the Gesù by Giacomo della Porta (consecrated 1584) facade and colonnade of St. Peter's Basilica by Carlo Maderno (completed 1612) and the lavish Barberini Palace interiors by Pietro da Cortona (1633–1639). Church of the Gesù by Giacomo della Porta (consecrated 1584), interior, and Santa Susanna (1603), by Carlo Maderno. In France, the Luxembourg Palace (1615–45) built by Salomon de Brosse for Marie de Medici was an early example of the style.[4]

The High Baroque (1625–1675) produced major works in Rome by Pietro da Cortona, including the (Church of Santi Luca e Martina) (1635–50); by Francesco Borromini (San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane (1634–1646)) ; and by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (The colonnade of St. Peter's Basilica) (1656–57). In Venice, High Baroque works included Santa Maria della Salute by Baldassare Longhena. Examples in France included the Pavillon de l’Horloge of the Louvre Palace by Jacques Lemercier (1624–1645), the Chapel of the Sorbonne by Jacques Lemercier (1626–35) and the Château de Maisons by François Mansart (1630–1651)

The Late Baroque (1675–1750) saw the style spread to all parts of Europe, and to the colonies of Spain and Portugal in the New World. National styles became more varied and distinct. The Late Baroque in France, under Louis XIV, was more ordered and classical; examples included the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles and the dome of Les Invalides. An especially ornate variant, appeared in the early 18th century; it was first called Rocaille in France; then Rococo in Spain and Central Europe. The sculpted and painted decoration covering every space on the walls and ceiling. Its most celebrated architect was Balthasar Neumann, noted for the Basilica of the Fourteen Holy Helpers and the Wurzburg Residence (1749–51)[5] Another 18th century variant was Lutheran Baroque art, exemplified by Dresden Frauenkirche (1726–1743)


Baroque architecture first appeared in the late 16th and early 17th century in religious architecture in Rome a means to counter the popular appeal of the Protestant Reformation. It was a reaction against the more severe and academic earlier style of earlier churches, it aimed to inspire the common people with the effects of surprise, emotion and awe. To achieve this, it used a combination of contrast, movement, trompe-l'oeil and other dramatic and theatrical effects, such as quadratura the use of painted ceilings that gave the illusion that one was looking up directly at the sky. The new style was particularly favored by the new religious orders, including the Theatines and the Jesuits who built new churches designed to attract and inspire a wide popular audience.[6]

One of the first Baroque architects, Carlo Maderno, used Baroque effects of space and perspective in the new facade and colonnade of Saint Peter's Basilica, which was designed to contrast with and complement the gigantic dome built earlier by Michelangelo.[7] Other influential early examples in Rome included the Church of the Gesù by Giacomo della Porta (consecrated 1584), with the first Baroque facade and a highly ornate interior, and Santa Susanna (1603), by Carlo Maderno.[8]

The Jesuits soon imported the style to Paris. The Church of Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais in Paris (1615–1621), had the first Baroque facade in France, the first facade in France, featuring, like the Italian Baroque facades, the three superimposed classical orders.[9] The Italian style of palaces was also imported to Paris by Marie de Medici for her new residence, the Luxembourg Palace (1615–1624) by architect Salomon de Brosse. Francois Mansard and for a new wing of the Chateau of Blois by Francois Mansard (1635–38). Nicolas Fouquet, the superintendent of finances for the young King Louis XIV, chose the new style for his new chateau at Vaux-le-Vicomte (1612–1670) by Louis Le Vau. He was later imprisoned by the King because of the extravagant cost of the palace.[10]

The first example of early Baroque in Central Europe was the Corpus Christi Church, Nesvizh in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, built by the Jesuits on the Roman model between 1586 and 1593 in Nieśwież (after 1945 Niasvizh in Belarus).[11][12] The church also holds a distinction of being the first domed basilica with a Baroque façade in the Commonwealth and Eastern Europe.[12] Another early example in Poland is the Church of Saints Peter and Paul Church, Kraków, built between 1597–1619 by the Italian Jesuit architect Giovanni Maria Bernardoni.

Pope Urban VIII, who occupied the Papacy from 1623 to 1644, became the most influential patron of the Baroque style. After the death of Carlo Maderno in 1629, Urban named the architect and sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini as the chief Papal architect. Bernini created not only Baroque buildings, but also Baroque interiors, squares and fountains, transforming the center of Rome into an enormous theater. Bernini rebuilt the Church of Santa Bibiana and the Church of San Sebastiano al Palatino on the Palatine Hill into Baroque landmarks, planned the Fontana del Tritone in the Piazza Barberini, created the soaring baldacchino as the centerpiece St Peter's Basilica.[13]

The High Baroque spread gradually across Italy. beyond Rome. The period saw the construction of Santa Maria della Salute by Baldassare Longhena in Venice (1630–31). Churches were not the only buildings to use the Baroque style. One of the finest monuments of the early Baroque is the Barberini Palace (1626–1629), the residence of the family of Urban VIII, begun by Carlo Maderno, and completed and decorated by Bernini and Francesco Borromini. The outside of the Pope's family residence, was relatively restrained, but the interiors, and especially the immense resco on the ceiling of the salon, the Allegory of Divine Providence and Barberini Power painted by Pietro da Cortona, are considered masterpieces of Baroque art and decoration.[14] Curving facades and the illusion of movement were a specialty of Francesco Borromini, most notably in San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane (1634–1646), one of the landmarks of the high Baroque.[15] Another important monument of the period was the Church of Santi Luca e Martina, in Rome, by Pietro da Cortona (1635–50), in the form of a Greek cross. with an elegant dome. After the death or Urban VIII, and the brief reign of his successor, The Papacy of Pope Alexander VII from 1666 until 1667, saw more construction of Baroque churches, squares and fountains in Rome by Carlo Rainaldi, Bernini and Carlo Fontana.[16]

King Louis XIII had sent the architect Jacques Lemercier to Rome between 1607 and 1614 to study the new style. On his return to France, he designed the Pavilion of the Horloge of he Louvre Palace (beginning 1626), and, more importantly, the Church of the Sorbonne, the first church dome in Paris. It was designed in 1626, and construction began in 1635.[17] The next important French Baroque project was a much larger dome for the church of Val-de-Grace begun in 1645 by Lemercier and François Mansart, and finished in 1715. A third Baroque dome was soon added for the College of the Four Nations (now the Institut de France).

In 1661, following the death of Cardinal Mazarin, the young Louis XIV took direct charge of the government. The arts were put under the direction of his controller of finance, Jean-Baptiste Colbert. Charles Le Brun, director of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, was named Superintendent of Buildings of the King, in charge of all royal architectural projects. The Royal Academy of Architecture was founded in 1671, with the mission of making Paris, not Rome, the artistic and architectural model for the world.[18]

The first architectural project of Louis XIV was a proposed reconstruction of the facade of the east wing of the Louvre. Bernini, then Europe's most famous architect, was summoned to Paris to submit a project. Beginning in 1664 Bernini proposed several Baroque variants, but in the end the King selected a design by a French architect, Charles Perrault, in a more classical variant of Baroque. This gradually became the Louis XIV style. Louis was soon engaged in an even larger project, the construction of the new Palace of Versailles. The architects chosen were Louis Le Vau and Jules Hardouin-Mansart, and the facades of the new palace were constructed around the earlier Marble Court between 1668–1678. The baroque grandeur of Versailles, particularly the facade facing the garden and the Hall of Mirrors by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, became models for other palaces across Europe.[19]

During the period of the Late Baroque (1675–1750), the style appeared across Europe, from England and France to Central Europe and Russia, from Spain and Portugal to Scandinavia, and in the colonies of Spain and Portugal in the New World. It often took different names, and the regional variations became more distinct. A particularly ornate variant appeared in the early 18th century, called Rocaille in France and Rococo in Spain and Central Europe. The sculpted and painted decoration covering every space on the walls and ceiling. The most prominent architects of this style included Balthasar Neumann, noted for the Basilica of the Fourteen Holy Helpers and the Wurzburg Residence (1749–51) These works were among the final expressions of the Rococo or the Late Baroque.[5]

By the early 18th century, Baroque buildings could be found in all parts of Italy, often with regional variations. Notable examples included the Basilica of Superga, overlooking Turin, by Filippo Juvarra (1717–1731), which took as its model the Panthéon in Paris.[20] The Stupinigi Palace (1729–31) was a hunting lodge and one of the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy near Turin. It was also built Filippo Juvarra.

  • [[INLINE_IMAGE|//|// 1.5x, // 2x||h150|w226]] Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles by Jules Hardouin-Mansart (begun 1678-1686)
  • [[INLINE_IMAGE|//|// 1.5x, // 2x||h150|w113]] Chapel of Les Invalides, Jules Hardouin-Mansart (completed 1708)
  • [[INLINE_IMAGE|//|// 1.5x, // 2x||h150|w98]] Chapel of the Palace of Versailles begun by Jules Hardouin-Mansart (1699 to 1710)
  • [[INLINE_IMAGE|//|// 1.5x, // 2x||h150|w229]] Salon of the Hôtel de Soubise in Paris (1735–40) by Germain Boffrand

The Late Baroque period in France saw the evolving decoration of the Palace of Versailles, including the Hall of Mirrors and the [[Palace of Versailles Chapel. Later in the period, during the reign of Louis XV, a new, more ornate variant, the Rocaille style, or French Rococo, appeared in Paris flourished between about 1723 and 1759.[21] The most prominent example was the salon of the Princess in Hôtel de Soubise in Paris, designed by Germain Boffrand and Charles-Joseph Natoire (1735–40). [22] [23]

The Rocaille style lasted until the mid-18th century, It never achieved the extravagant exuberance of the Rococo in Bavaria, Austria and Italy. The discoveries of Roman antiquities beginning in 1738 at Herculanum and especially at Pompeii in 1748 turned French architecture in the direction of the more symmetrical and less flamboyant neo-classicism.

Christopher Wren was the leading English figure of the late Baroque, with his reconstruction of St. Paul's Cathedral (1675–1711), inspired by the model of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and his plan for Greenwich Hospital (begun 1695), and Hampton Court Palace (1690–96) Other British figures of the late Baroque included Inigo Jones for Wilton House (1632–1647 and two pupils of Wren, John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor, for Castle Howard (1699–1712), and Blenheim Palace (1705–1724).[24]

Many of the most extraordinary buildings of the Late Baroque were constructed in Germany, Austria and Czechia. In Austria, leading figure was Fischer von Erlach, who built the Karlskirche, the largest church of Vienna, to glorify the Austrian Emperors. These works sometimes borrowed elements from Versailles combined with elements of the Italian Baroque to create grandiose new effects, as in the Schwarzenberg Palace [!715). Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt used grand stairways and ellipses to achieve his effects at the upper and lower Belvedere Palace in Vienna (1714–1722). In The Abbey of Melk, by Jakob Prandtauer, used an abundance of polychrome marble and stucco, statuary and ceiling paintings to achieve harmonious and highly theatrical effects.[25]

In Czechia (Bohemia), the leading Baroque architect was Christoph Dientzenhofer, whose building featured complex curves and counter-curves and elliptical forms, making Prague, like Vienna, a capital of the late Baroque.[26] Another important figure of German Baroque was Balthasar Neumann (1687–1753), whose works included the Würzburg Residence for the Prince-Bishops at Wurzburg, with its famous staircase.[27]

Political and economic crises in the 17th century largely delayed the arrival of the Baroque in Span until the late period, though it was strongly promoted by the Jesuits. Its early characteristics were a lavish exterior contrasting with a relatively simple interior, and the use of the multiple spaces and carefully-planned lighting in the interior to give an impression of mystery. early 18th century,[28] Notable Spanish examples included the new west facade of Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, (1738–50), with its spectacular towers, by Fernando de Casas Novoa. In Seville, Leonardo de Figueroa was the creator of the College of San Telmo, with a facade inspired by Italian Baroque. The most ornate works of the Spanish Baroque were made by Jose Benito de Churriguera in Madrid and Salamanca. In his work, the buildings are nearly overwhelmed by ornament of gilded wood, gigantic twisting columns, and sculpted vegetation. His two brothers, Joaquin and Alberto, also made important, if less ornamented, contributions to what became known simply as the Churrigueresque style.[28]

  • [[INLINE_IMAGE|//|// 1.5x, // 2x||h200|w200]] Late Baroque Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (1738-1750)
  • [[INLINE_IMAGE|//|// 1.5x, // 2x||h200|w150]] Palacio de San Telmo in Seville, by Leonardo de Figueroa (1682-1895)
  • [[INLINE_IMAGE|//|// 1.5x, // 2x||h200|w150]] Retable in the Sagrario Chapel of Segovia Cathedral by Jose Benito de Churriguera (1686) in the Churrigueresque style.

The Baroque style was imported into Latin America in the 17th century by the Spanish and the Portuguese, particularly by the Jesuits for the construction of churches. The style was sometimes called Churrigueresque, after the family of Baroque architects in Salamanca. A particularly fine example is Zacatecas Cathedral in Zacatecas City, in north-central Mexico, with its lavishly sculpted facade and twin bell towers. Another important example is San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico.[29] A notable example in Brazil is the Monastery of Sao Bento in Rio de Janeiro. begun in 1617, with additional decoration after 1668. The Metropolitan Tabernacle the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, to the right of th main cathedral, built by Lorenzo Rodríguez between 1749 and 1760, to house the archives and vestments of the archbishop, and to receive visitors.[30]

Portuguese colonial architecture was modeled after the architecture of Lisbon. The most notable architect in Brazil was Aleijadinho, who was native of Brazil, not Portuguese, and self-taught. His most famous work is the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi in Ouro Preto.[31]


Baroque architecture often used visual and theatrical effects, designed to surprise and awe the viewer.

  • Domes were a common feature. Their interiors were often painted with a sky filled with angels and sculpted sunbeams, suggesting glory or a vision of heaven. Pear-shaped domes were sometimes used in the Bavarian, Czech, Polish and Ukrainian Baroque
  • Quadratura. Paintings in trompe-l'oeil of angels and saints in the dome and on the ceiling, combined with stucco frames or decoration, which give the illusion of three dimensions, and of looking through the ceiling to the heavens. Sometimes painted or sculpted figures of Atlantes appear to be holding up the ceiling. In some Baroque churches, a painted dome on the ceiling gave the illusion of three dimensions.
  • grand stairways. Stairways often occupied a central place and were used for dramatic effect. winding upwards in stages, giving changing views from different levels, serving as a setting for ceremonies.[32]
  • cartouches in elaborate forms and sculpted frames break up the surfaces and add three-dimensional effects to the walls.
  • mirrors to give the impression of depth and greater space, particularly when combined with windows, as in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles.
  • incomplete architectural elements, such as frontons with sections missing, causing sections to merge and disorienting the eye.
  • chiaroscuro, Use of strong contrasts of darkness and light for dramatic effect.
  • Overhead sculpture. putti or figures on or just below the ceiling, made of wood (often gilded), plaster or stucco, marble or faux finishing, giving the impression of floating in the air.
  • Twisting columns, which gave an illusion of motion.[32]
  • Elliptical or oval spaces, eliminating right angles. Sometimes an oval nave was surrounded by radiating circular chapels. This was a distinctive feature of the Basilica of the Fourteen Holy Helpers of Balthasar Neumann .[33]


Major Baroque architects and works, by country

  • Pietro Spozzo – Jesuit Church of Trnava (1629–37)

See also

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