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Baroque Architecture – The Power Of Dramatic Energy

Baroque Architecture(1590-1725) that featured highly decorative and theoretical styles prevailed in Italy in the early 17th century and slowly spread across Europe. The Baroque movement began in Rome after the Renaissance, partly as a reaction against the Protestant Reformation. Sculpture, Paintings, and Use of color and light in Baroque Architecture were sensual and passionate.

Baroque architecture is quite known for its intricate and exquisite details, complicated geometries, and breathtaking grandeur. Mainly, the Baroque architectural style emphasizes the contrast between light and dark to add drama to its forms. One can see the optical tricks by curved lines, concaves, and oval shapes with a combination of textures that bought out complexities. While the ceilings were painted and the walls were gilded, spectators felt as if they were in motion.

The emphasis in Baroque Architecture

  • A classical architectural style.
  • Elaborate and Intricate details
  • Sculptures – Full of life, emotion, and movement
  • Complicated Geometries such as ovals and eclipses.
  • Opulent and extravagant materials.

Characteristics /Features of Baroque Architecture

The characteristics of Baroque Architecture establish a sense of dramatic emotion with energy and action.

  • Intricate details
  • Rich Textures/Rich surface treatments
  • Color and light contrast
  • Asymmetrical spaces
  • Twisting elements, Curve/sweeping forms – specially Domes
  • Irregular or complicated shapes
  • Concave and convex surfaces to mimic undulation
  • Grand stairways
  • Exaggerated Grandeur
  • Use of oval, both in plan and in ornamentation
  • Trompe-I’oeil treatments in interiors
  • Groupings of columns and niches
  • Lavish, dramatic paintings are featured on ceilings and walls.
  • Imagery that created optical illusions.

Best Examples of Baroque Architecture

1. Trevi Fountain

Baroque Architecture
Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy; Image source: Wikipedia.org
  • Fountain: Trevi Fountain
  • Location: Italy, Rome
  • Date: 1732-62 (18th century)
  • Architect: Nicola Salvi, Giussepem Pannini and others
  • Historical Influence: Greek style ( Corinthian columns, moldings around openings), Renaissance architecture
  • Key Features: It features a central statue of Oceanus by Pietro Bracci, which is framed by a coffered semi-dome.
  • Façade: The façade comprises a giant order of Corinthian pilasters that link two main storeys. In the center, the semi-circular architectural niche has free-standing columns for maximal light and shade for the statue. Moreover, the Corinthian pilasters rise up to a Baroque balustrade.

2. Santa Maria Della Salute

Image source: locationscout.net
  • Building: Santa Maria Della Salute
  • Function/Use: Church
  • Location: Venice, Italy
  • Date: 1631-81
  • Architect: Baldassare Longhena, architect.
  • Historical Influence: Greek style ( Corinthian columns, moldings around openings), Renaissance architecture
  • Key Features: The church features two domes of different scales while the largest one is visible on visible upon the water approach to the Piazza San Marco from the Grand Canal.
  • Façade: It is an octagonal rotunda with two domes. The drum of the main dome is surrounded by sculptural figures. Each of the figures is standing on volute-like spirals. Additionally, these spirals act as buttress support for the structure. The exterior is richly decorated with columns, pediments, niches holding statues, and other elements that are carved out of Istrian Marble.

3. San Carlo Alle Quattro Fontane

Baroque Architecture
Image source: Wikipedia.org
  • Building: San Carlo Alle Quattro Fontane
  • Function/Use: Church
  • Location: Rome, Italy
  • Date: 1638-41
  • Architect: Francesco Borromini
  • Historical Influence: Greek style ( Corinthian columns, moldings around openings), Renaissance architecture.
  • Key Features: Corinthian columns, entablatures weaved behind the Corinthian columns, distinctive sculptures, and oval-shaped niches – all these features create a sense of movement and drama.
  • Façade: The façade of the church features concave and convex curves emphasized by columns, elaborately carved niches, sculptors, and elliptical-shaped fenestrations. An equally important element is an oval medallion that crowns at the center of the façade held by supporting angels. The medallion once contained a fresco by Pietro Giarguzzi.

4. Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte

Baroque Architecture
Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga – UNESCO World Heritage Centre
  • Building: Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte
  • Location: Braga, Portugal
  • Date: 1781
  • Historical Influence: Greek architecture and Renaissance architecture.
  • Key Features: The stairway of five senses, surrounded by walls, steps, fountains, ornamental finials, and figural sculpture is the finest emblematic Baroque work.
  • Universal Value: UNESCO world Heritage Site
  • Façade: This monumental stairway is organized in a zig-zag pattern as three stairways with associated terraces that create a sense of movement and drama.

5. Zwinger Palace

Baroque Architecture
Image source: Wikipedia.org

It is the most famous monument in Dresden, Germany, and an important building of the Baroque period.

  • Building: Zwinger Palace
  • Function/Use: Palace
  • Location: Dresden, Saxony, Germany
  • Date: 1710-28
  • Architect: Matthäus Daniel Pöppelman
  • Key Features: Elaborately decorated pavilions, and galleries lined with balustrades, figures, and vases showcase the splendor during the reign of Augustus the strong.
  • Although the Zwinger palace was completely destroyed during World war II, it is later completely rebuilt and collections were restored.

6. Santa Susanna

Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

This façade is noted for the architectural illusion of height achieved through Corinthian columns, vertical niches, as well as turned volutes reaching up to the pediment.

  • Building: Santa Susanna
  • Function: Roman Catholic Church
  • Location: Rome, Italy
  • Date: 1585–1603
  • Architect: Carlo Maderno
  • Historical Influence: Greek style ( Corinthian columns, moldings around openings), Renaissance architecture.
  • Key Features: Corinthian columns, vertical niches, and sculptures, as well as turned volutes reaching up to the pediment, add grandeur and complexity.
  • Façade: The façade in travertine, comprises the dynamic rhythm of columns and pilasters that protrude from the front façade. The entranceway and the roof are surmounted by triangular pediments that are in harmony with each other. Nevertheless, the windows are replaced by vertical niches that are magnificently carved incorporating sculptural figures.

7. Sant’Andrea al Quirinale

Image source: Pinterest
  • Building: Sant’Andrea al Quirinale
  • Function: Roman Catholic Church
  • Location: Rome, Italy
  • Date: 1658-1670
  • Architect: Gian Lorenzo Bernini
  • Historical Influence: Greek style – Ionic and Corinthian columns
  • Façade: The façade is crowned with a triangular pediment supported by Corinthian pilasters. The entry to the church proceeds up several steps and under a semicircular porch flanked with two Ionic columns. Above the porch entablature is the coat of arms of the Pamphili patron.

8. St. Paul’s Cathedral – Baroque Architecture

Image source: tripsavvy.com
Interiors of St. Paul’s Cathedral; Image source: Wikimedia Commons

This Baroque masterpiece rises above in London and was the tallest building until 1963.

  • Building: St Paul’s Cathedral
  • Function: Anglican Cathedral
  • Location: London, United Kingdom
  • Date: 1675-1710
  • Architect: Sir Christopher Wren
  • Features: Exterior and Interior Dome
  • Façade: Exterior dome rises above a drum of columns and niches dominating the exterior and also the main façade. An interior dome matches the scale of the inside of the cathedral. A brick cone resides in between the two and acts as an intervening structural element.
  • Interiors: Interior showcases many of the features of the Baroque architectural style – elaborate frescoes, use of gold for coffered ceilings and dome, as well as vaults and arches.

9. St. Peter’s Square & The Baldacchino – Vatican City, Rome, Italy

Image source : youlocalrome.com
  • Building: St. Peter’s Square
  • Function: Plaza located in front of St. Peter’s Basilica
  • Location: Vatican City, Rome
  • Date: 1586- 1675
  • Architect: Gian Lorenzo Bernini
  • Historical Influence: Egyptian and Greek Architecture
  • Key Features: Massive Doric Colonnades, Central Egyptian Obelisk, Granite fountain, elliptical plan
  • Façade: The façade features massive Doric colonnades with intricate Baroque sculptures standing atop them.

10. Royal Palace of Caserta

Image source: Capri.com
Image source: UNESCO

It is the largest Royal residence in the world covering an area of 47000m2. Royal Palace is the finest example of a monumental structure of Baroque architecture built as a magnificent palace.

  • Building: Royal Palace of Caserta
  • Function: Royal house/Palace
  • Location: Caserta, Campania, Italy
  • Date: 18th Century
  • Architect: Luigi Vanvitelli
  • Features: The palace with 5 floors includes state apartments, inner courts, a large library, a theater, a monumental rooms decorated with frescoes. Also covers a large park, gardens, and wooded area as well as Aqueduct and an industrial complex.
  • Universal Value: UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Façade: A linear façade with English garden as the greatest picturesque garden in Europe.

Examples of Interiors – Baroque Art and Architecture

Santa Maria Della Vittoria – Rome, Italy

In the arm of the transept of the church, Bernini, created an effect of a mini theater, with the members of the Cornaro family in boxes overlooking the divine mystery of the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa onstage.

Bernini designed an illusionistic fresco around the window, showing billowing clouds and angels. Even some of the clouds in high relief art covers up part of architectural moldings and structure beneath. The fresco ceiling shows the heavens opening up.

Granada Charterhouse

Sacristy of La Cartuja – Interiors

Baroque art enrichment is in the interiors of this building. Elaborate carved stucco work with intricate details even conceals underlying pilasters and the basic structural system. The Eye is drawn endlessly from part to part with the dramatic play of light and shadow.

Ceiling Decoration of Gesu

In astonishment, here the line between three dimensional reality and mystical illusion is blurred. Thickly modeled architectural moldings of stucco were placed on the barrel vaults of Gesu, framing illusionistic frescos showing clouds and angels rising to heaven.

Baroque Architecture indicates any art form that was elaborated, embellished, as well as complex when compared to preceding Renaissance architecture and other styles. Moreover desired ambiguity, variety, contrast, elasticity, and spatial depth prevails in Baroque architecture.

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