The Chronicles of Baroque Architecture – Part 1

At the beginning of 16th century Italy, a new genre of architecture was born known as Baroque architecture. This style of architecture took the Renaissance of Rome and presented it in a dramatic and ornamented form. Baroque architecture first appeared in Italy in the 16th century and in the early 17th century across Europe. It was formed by the Catholic churches as a sign of reformation. Moreover, the Protestants churches put forward this style in order to establish a new form of expression, inducing surprise and awe. Eventually, this became the style of architecture for churches and palaces across Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, and Austria.

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Baroque Architecture

Baroque architecture included basic elements of the Renaissance era. The typical Baroque architecture characteristics were domes and colonnades. The idea here was to add a play of form, light, and shadow and with dramatic intensity. It became an expression of high grandeur and authority. Whereas, the interiors were heavily adorned with quadrature paintings and sculptures. Clusters of sculptures and painted figurines were used to crowd the ceiling. The abstract idea behind this feature was to create an illusion that these structures ascended towards heaven. The use of the twisted columns helped to add to this ascending effect. The extensive use of light marked the idea of creating a theatrical effect inside these structures. In Baroque architecture, the use of grand stairways is the foremost feature. This can be seen in most of the palaces as a central element of design.

The Stages of the Baroque style of Architecture

Since the inception of the Baroque, the style has grown in itself and seen to be influenced by various elements depending on the time and cultural fabric. Baroque architecture is broadly divided into three stages:

The Early Baroque

The Church of the Gesù

This is the period from 1584 – 1625 and was immensely dominated by the (1584–1625) was largely dominated by the contribution of Roman architects. The early baroque was aimed at religious reforms in Rome. This was a reaction to the more influential style of earlier churches. The early baroque era meant to inspire the masses with the effects of surprise, emotion, and awe. Thus, this new expression was widely accepted by the new religious orders. This included the Theatines and the Jesuits who eventually used this form of expression in their churches and religious structures.

Notable structures of Early Baroque: 

The Church of the Gesù, St. Peters Basilica,  Luxembourg Palace,  The Barnerini Palace, Salomon De Brosse -Paris, Corpus Christ Church, Santa Sussana, The church of Saints Peter & Paul- Krakow.

The High Baroque

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San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane

The High Baroque produced major works in Rome in the period 1625 – 1675. The Baroque architecture characteristics of this era spread across Italy. The High Baroque saw one of the finest monuments like the Barberini Palace and the residence of the family of Urban VIII. Moreover, the High Baroque movement also inspired the exteriors of Pope’s family residence, especially the immense fresco on the ceiling and the interiors. This period saw the construction of the Santa Maria Della Salute by Baldassare Longhena in Venice.

Notable structures of Early Baroque: 

The Church of Santi Luca e Martina, San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, the Chapel of the Sorbonne by Jacques Lemercier and the Château de Maisons by François Mansart .

The Late Baroque

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Dome of Les Invalides

The Late Baroque from 1675–1750 marked the spread of baroque architecture to all parts of Europe and the Spanish as well as Portugal colonies. The Late Baroque saw regional variations in the style of architecture. The typical characteristics involved the sculpted and painted decoration covering every space on the walls and ceiling. The Late Baroque period gave rise to the magnificent structures of the Palace of Versailles, including the Hall of Mirrors and the Chapel.

Notable structures of Early Baroque:

Dome of Les Invalides, Stupinigi Palace, the Basilica of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, and the Wurzburg Residence.

Key Learnings

The Baroque is essentially an art of illusion comprising of the scene painting, perspective illusions, and trompe-l’oeil. The elements in this style are employed to achieve a total spatial effect. It was also a step towards the inclusion of art and sculpture in architecture. Baroque paintings and art forms are an integral part of this setting, and the absence of any of it’s would not result in the total effect of the space, otherwise achieved in Baroque art.

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Sudarshan Uppunda
Sudarshan Uppunda
Born & brought up in Bombay, based in Bengaluru, Sudarshan is an ambivert who can be outgoing-open and reserved at the same time. It all depends on the vibes! He deeply believes in vibes and personal energies. As an Architectural Journalist and Architect, he aims to write in a way that his content is relatable for all. Design is what interests him the most and he keeps trying his hand at different design verticals such as graphic, UI & UX design at times. He likes to write and explore varied topics on Workplace environments, Architecture, and Culture. He is quite active in architectural content writing and has written for various platforms like RTF, The Arch Insider, Gharpedia, etc. He strongly believes that whatever one does in life, one must do it with passion & be happy with it.

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