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 Essential Architecture-  ROME

S. Ivo della Sapienza


Francesco Borromini


Rome, Italy


1642 to 1650


Italian Baroque




Church of the University of Rome
  Sant'Ivo, embraced by the wings of the Palazzo alla Sapienza.
Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza is a church in Rome. The church is considered a masterpiece of Roman Baroque church architecture, built in 1642-1660 by the architect Francesco Borromini.

The church started out, around 14th century, as a chapel of the University of Rome palace. The University is called La Sapienza, and the church is devoted to Saint Yves (parton saint of the jurists), giving the church its name. Borromini was forced to adapt his design to the already existing palace. He choose a plan resembling a star of David, and merged the facade of the church with the courtyard of the palace. The dome, with its corkscrew lantern, is remarkable in its novelty. The complex rhythms of the interior have a dazzling geometry to them. It is a rational architecture- intricate to view, but on paper the overlap of a circle on two superimposed equilateral triangles creates a basis for a hexagonal array of chapels and altar in a centralized church. The undulations, both concave and convex of the interiors, create a jarring yet stunning appeal. The decoration is a mixture of novel organic (six-winged cherubic heads) and geometric (stars), more platonic than the contemporary gilded and plaster excesses of Bernini. Rising along the base of three of the dome's pillars are the symbol of the papal Chigi family, the "six mountain beneath a star".

The main artwork of the interior is the altarpiece by Pietro da Cortona, portraying St. Yves.

"Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza", by Nyborg. 
[1] diagrams of structure. 
Satellite photo. The Church is the smaller "flower-like" dome in the center, between the massive Pantheon dome and Piazza Navona. It is located between Corso del Rinascimento and Via della Scrofa (east), closer to the latter street. 

A new spirit and a new approach to architecture characterize Bernini's great rival, Francesco Borromini. Bernini had worked with him on the baldachin in St. Peter's, but was disgusted by the architecture of his competitor, which he considered extravagant, fantastic, and contrary to the tradition of using human proportion. The blurring of distinctions between the component parts of a building was begun by Borromini. In the ground plan of the tiny church of S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane in Rome, for example, a number of geometric primary forms are so fused with one another that the complex structure of the interior can no longer be easily defined. The entire fašade of S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane swings in and out as though it had been set into motion. In the interior of S. Ivo, the shape of the floor plan is continued into the vaulting. Base and dome are merged so that the "ribs" of the dome, continuing the line of the pilasters, seem to rise directly from the floor. Such innovations as this called forth astonishment and sometimes horror from Borromini's contemporaries. Nevertheless, they became fundamental for later Baroque, and particularly for Rococo, architecture.