Baroque architecture

From Academic Kids

For the Baroque style in a more general sense, see Baroque.

Baroque architecture, starting in the early 17th century in Italy, took the humanist Roman vocabulary of Renaissance architecture and used it in a new rhetorical, theatrical, sculptural fashion, expressing the triumph of absolutist church and state. New architectural concerns for color, light and shade, sculptural values and intensity characterize the Baroque.


Precursors and features of Baroque architecture

Michelangelo's late Roman buildings, particularly St. Peter's Basilica, may be considered precursors of baroque architecture, as the design of the latter achieves a colossal unity that was previously unknown. His pupil Giacomo della Porta continued this work in Rome, particularly in the facade of the Jesuit church Il Gesu, which leads directly to the most important church facade of the early baroque, Santa Susanna by Carlo Maderno. In the 17th century, the baroque style spread through Europe and Latin America, where it was particularly promoted by the Jesuits.

Important features of baroque architecture include:

In Italy

The sacred architecture of the baroque was mainly influenced by Italy, especially Rome and the paradigm of the basilica with crossed dome and nave. The centre of baroque secular architecture was France, where the open three wing layout of the palace was established as the canonical solution as early as the 16th century. But it was the Palais du Luxembourg (built 1615-1620) by Salomon de Brosse that established the paradigm of baroque architecture.

For the first time, the Corps des Logis was emphasized as the representative main part of the building, while the side wings were lower. The tower has been completely replaced by the central projection. The next step of development was the integration of the gardens in the composition of the palace, as is exemplified by Vaux-le-Vicomte (built 1656 - 1661) near Paris, where the architect Louis Le Vau and the gardener Andr Le Ntre complemented each other. The same two artists scaled this concept to monumental proportions in the royal hunting lodge and later main residence of Palace of Versailles (extended 1661 - 1690). Versailles was the model of many other European residences including Mannheim, Nordkirchen, and Caserta, among others.

In Central Europe

In Central Europe, the baroque period began somewhat later. Although the Augsburg architect Elias Holl (1573 - 1646) and some theoretists, including Joseph Furttenbach the Elder already practised the baroque style, they remained without successors due to the ravages of the Thirty Years War. From about 1650 on, construction work resumes, and secular and ecclesiastical architecture are of equal importance. During an initial phase, master-masons from southern Switzerland and northern Italy, the so-called magistri Grigioni and the Lombard master-masons, particularly the Carlone family from Val d'Intelvi, dominated the field. However, Austria came soon to develop its own characteristic baroque style during the last third of the seventeenth century. Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach was impressed by Bernini. He forged a new Imperial style by compiling architectural motifs from the entire history, most prominently seen in his church of St. Charles Borromeo in Vienna. Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt also had an Italian training. He developed a highly decorative style, particularly in facade architecture, which exerted strong influences on southern Germany

Frequently, the Southern German baroque is distinguished from the Northern German baroque, which is more properly the distinction between the catholic and the protestant baroque.

In the catholic South, the Jesuit church of St. Michael in Munich was the first to bring Italian style across the Alps. However, its influence on the further development of church architecture was rather limited. A much more practical and more adaptable model of church architecture was provided by the Jesuit church in Dillingen (1610-17): the wall-pillar church, i.e. a barrel-vaulted nave accompanied by large open chapels separated by wall-pillars. As opposed to St. Michael's in Munich, the chapels almost reach the height of the nave in the wall-pillar church, and their vault (usually transverse barrel-vaults) springs from the same level as the main vault of the nave. The chapels provide ample lighting; seen from the entrance of the church, the wall-pillars form a theatrical setting for the side altars. The wall-pillar church was further developed by the Vorarlberg school, as well as the master-masons of Bavaria. The wall-pillar church also integrated well with the "hall" church model of the German late Gothic age. The wall-pillar church continued to be used throughout the eighteenth century (e.g., even in the early neo-classical church of Rot an der Rot), and early wall-pillar churches could easily be refurbished by re-decoration without any structural changes, e.g., the church at Dillingen.

However, the catholic South also received influences from other sources, e.g., the so-called radical baroque of Bohemia. The radical baroque of Christoph Dientzenhofer and his son Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer, both residing at Prague, was inspired by examples from northern Italy, particularly by the works of Guarino Guarini. It is characterized by the curvature of walls and intersection of oval spaces. While some Bohemian influence is visible in Bavaria's most prominent architect of the period, Johann Michael Fischer, e.g., in the curved balconies of some of his earlier wall-pillar churches, the works of Balthasar Neumann are generally considered to be the final synthesis of Bohemian and German traditions.

Protestant sacred architecture was of lesser importance during the baroque, and produced only a few works of prime importance, particularly the Frauenkirche in Dresden. Architectural theory was more lively in the north than in the south of Germany, e.g., Leonhard Christoph Sturm's edition of Nikolaus Goldmann, but Sturm's theoretical considerations (e.g., on Protestant church architecture) never really made it to practical application. In the south, theory essentially reduced to the use of buildings and elements from illustrated books and engravings as a prototype.

Palace architecture was equally important both in the catholic South and the protestant North. After an initial phase when Italian architects and influences dominated (Vienna, Rastatt), French influence prevailed from the second decennium of the eighteenth century onwards. The French model is characterized by the horseshoe-like layout enclosing a cour d'honneur (courtyard) on the town side (chateau entre cour et jardin), whereas the Italian (and also Austrian) scheme presents a block-like villa. The principal achievements of German Palace architecture, often worked out in close collaboration of several architects, provide a synthesis of Austro-Italian and French models. The most outstanding palace which blends Austro-Italian and French influences into a completely new type of building is the residence at Wrzburg. While its general layout is the horseshoe-like French plan, it encloses interior courtyards. Its facades combine Lucas von Hildebrandt's love of decoration with French-style classical orders in two superimposed stories; its interior features the famous Austrian "imperial staircase", but also a French-type enfilade of rooms on the garden side, inspired by the "appartement semi-double" layout of French castles.

In England and Russia

In England the culmination of Baroque architecture comes with Sir Christopher Wren, Sir John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor. Many examples of Baroque architecture and town planning are found in other European towns, and in the Spanish Americas. Town planning of this period featured radiating avenues intersecting in squares, which took cues from Baroque garden plans.

In Russia, the baroque architecture passed through three stages - the early Moscow baroque, with elegant white decorations on red-brick walls of rather traditional churches, the mature Petrine baroque, mostly imported from Low Countries, and the late Rastrelliesque baroque, in the words of William Brumfield, "extravagant in design and execution, yet ordered by the rhythmic insistence of massed columns and baroque statuary."

See also



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