Bernini and the Bell Towers: Architecture and Politics at the Vatican

Bernini and the Bell Towers: Architecture and Politics at the Vatican

by Sarah McPhee, Israel Silvestre
     
 

ISBN-10: 0300089821

ISBN-13: 9780300089820

Pub. Date: 01/28/2003

Publisher: Yale University Press

In 1638, The Great Artist-Architect Gianlorenzo Bernini began one of the most ambitious architectural projects of his career: to design and construct massive twin bell towers atop St. Peter's basilica at the Vatican. But the project failed spectacularly. Bernini's reputation was permanently tarnished, and the scandal of the bell towers sparked a controversy that

Overview

In 1638, The Great Artist-Architect Gianlorenzo Bernini began one of the most ambitious architectural projects of his career: to design and construct massive twin bell towers atop St. Peter's basilica at the Vatican. But the project failed spectacularly. Bernini's reputation was permanently tarnished, and the scandal of the bell towers sparked a controversy that persists to this day. What happened? Who was responsible? How did events unfold in this dramatic episode of architectural history? This engaging and beautifully illustrated book tells the complete story of the bell towers for the first time. Presenting a wealth of new visual and documentary evidence, Sarah McPhee reconstructs the entire affair, the architectural and political milieu, the evolution of the designs, and the varying influences of all those involved in the project. Built under the patronage of Pope Urban VIII Barberini, Bernini's partially completed first tower caused cracks in St. Peter's facade within months of construction. When the ground beneath the tower was judged unstable, the pope's successor staged an architectural competition to solve the problem, but ultimately the tower was dismantled and the project itself was abandoned. McPhee examines the multiple constraints under which Bernini worked, including the ambitions of the pope, the criticisms of rival architects, the financial and political constraints of the building committee, the monumental history of the basilica, and the geology of the site. She reinterprets Bernini's role as architect in the light of fresh evidence and shows convincingly that the failure of the bell tower was not Bernini's own. Instead, it was the failure of the institution of the Vatican, driven by liturgical and political imperatives that doomed the project despite the architect's heroic efforts.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300089820
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
01/28/2003
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x (d)

Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsIX
AbbreviationsXI
IntroductionI
1Paul V, Carlo Maderno, and the Bell Towers of St. Peter's5
2Bernini's Bell Tower36
3Innocent X, Virgilio Spada, and the Cardinals of the Congregation82
4Virgilio Spada, Francesco Borromini, and the Foundations of St. Peter's95
5The Fabbrica of St. Peter's: Families, Function, Politics121
6Competition or Consultation? The Real Contenders and the Evolution of the Design136
7Truth and Time165
8Twin Towers190
Documents213
Catalogue of Drawings263
Notes295
Works Cited333
Index347

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