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Francesco Borromini: The Innovative Designer of Roman Baroque Architecture


Giving way to Baroque from Classicism and designing the architecture that consists of curves, flow and dynamism with no point of rest, and with parts related in ways that are both subtle and relentless and which convey a sense of buoyancy and rhythm, the Swiss architect, Francesco Borromini, is revered as the most daring and original architect of the Roman Baroque, who changed the face of 17th century Rome.

Born Francesco Castelli, on September 25, 1599, in Bissone on Lake Lugano, the architect was reputed throughout Europe for his striking designs. Following his father's footsteps, Borromini was sent to Milan to study and practice stone masonry. At the age of 20, he moved to Rome, where he changed his name from Castelli to Borromini. Working initially with his relative, the architect Carlo Maderno on St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, Borromini rubbed shoulders with Bernini.

After Maderno's death in 1629, Borromini began working closely with Bernini. Together they successfully completed the facade and expansions of Maderno's Palazzo Barberini and built the enormous bronze baldachin at St. Peter's Basilica. A great admirer of the architecture of Michelangelo, as well as the forms of Roman architecture, Borromini manipulated their geometric principles to create a unique, personal style.

In 1634, Borromini was given his first major commission: the church, cloister and monastery of “San Carlo alle Quattro Fontaine”. After this, he was appointed architect for the dome and façade of the “Palazzo Sapienza” and “Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza” (1640-1650). Both these commissions went well and his good relations with Pope Innocent X (1644-55) led to several new papal projects, though not all ended successfully.

With the death of Innocent X in 1655, Borromini lost most of his Papal commissions and fell out of favor. Despite widespread recognition of his exceptional architectural gifts, his reserved and intense personality ruled him out of many major projects. In the summer of 1667, he became ill and his mental condition worsened.

After he suffered seizures, Borromini abstained from all activities to rest.  One hot night, frustrated and unable to sleep, he rose in fit of anger, found a sward and fell on it. On 2nd August 1667, Borromini's difficult life was in suicide.



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