The Borromini’s lantern: the fire of the Knowledge

Imagine to walk peacefully throught the fine streets in the city centre of Rome.
Now, imagine to have to the right an open door.
Passing the entrance, you will stay just in the centre of a courtyard, surrounded by columns. But what is majestic and truly beautiful is a white and brilliant lantern set above a church in front of you.

That lantern, the architectural final part of a dome in a church, has a spiral shape, recalling movements and virtuosism. It isn’t a dream, but a true church which stands not far from Piazza Navona. This is the church of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza, and the genius who created it and its wonderful lantern was one of the most important artists in Rome: Borromini

The Borromini’s lantern

Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza

It was a church projected during the XVI century, when all the area was under restoration.
What is foundamental to say is that this place was famous in Rome, just because it was the first headquarter of the La Sapienza University.
It was inaugurated during the first years of the XIV century by the Pope Bonifacio VIII, who wanted to show how the city could be the birthplace and the core of the Knowledge.
But over the centuries it was quite destroyed and abandoned.
This is the reason why in the Renaissance, a time in which whatever you want in Rome was restored and built, La Sapienza University was one of the palaces chosen for some restorations.

Cupola - Chiesa Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza

After many years the construction site wasn’t finish.
It was a huge problem, due to the image of Rome which had to indicate the city not only as the place of the Church, but also the refuge of Arts and Wisdow.

They could be created thanks to the deeds of the Christian Church and for this reason the sacred building was essential. Borromini started to work there with a simple aim: he had to built something that could remember to everybody the real symbols of the place.

The Lantern

We could speak a lot about the great project created by the master. How he was able to use geometrical shapes in order to produce a star map, how the inside of the church was so brilliant… but we have to put our attention to the fantastic lantern! An architectural element which connects the ground with the sky, with its curved lines and decorations.

What do it represents?

The lantern is the Fire of the Wisdow, but not only…it symbollically regains the Babele Tower, which was also a symbol of the human Knowledge. Moreover, the lantern regains also the Headlight of Alessandria, other human masterpiece.
So, in this way we could understand how Borromini played with the history and the traditions, in order to obtain something that managed to represent some of the most important human discretions.

Then, he was able to create something more: a new must see monument in Rome!

The wonderful perspective of “Villa della Farnesina”

arts in rome artsinrome master fine art romaVilla della Farnesina was erected at the beginning of the XVI century by [sg_popup id=”12″]Baldassare Peruzzi[/sg_popup], a man and an artist who gave many treasures at Rome.

Inside this wonderful villa, the main and the most gorgeous example of the Renaissance building in the city, Peruzzi managed to create and think something curious and beautiful: two rooms completely covered by frescos. Special frescos… We stay at the second floor of Villa della Farnesina which was commissioned by the rich man Agostino Chigi.  He was a banker, lending much money to everyone, particularly Popes. For this reason his patrimony was so large, quite enormous.

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Many noblemen in that period wanted to underline their power building graceful homes, plenty of artistic masterpieces.
In fact, Agostino Chigi decided to call one of the main artist of his period in order to realize his home and representative Villa: the architect was Baldassare Peruzzi, a friend of [sg_popup id=”13″]Raffaello Sanzio[/sg_popup].
Raphael too worked and embellished the villa, but today I wish to talk about to Baldassare Peruzzi, who created something incredible. Going in the first room, named “Salone delle Prospettive”, your look will be totally captured by the frescos of the wall, that haven’t no empty spaces. Everything was covered by colors and, mainly, false perspective.

What is it?

arts in rome artsinrome art master in romeWe have a perspective when the third dimension is set in a surface with just two dimensions. Peruzzi was able to create landscapes and panoramic viewpoints where there is just a wall… Moreover he used false architectural elements, as columns and balaustrades, in order to improve the sense of depth. Usually in that period the ancient art and elements which could remember the history of Rome and Ancient Greek were used to decorate villas, palaces etc. It was due to the incredible love, and sometimes mania, which developped in Rome during the beginning of the XVI century. This colorful room brought our mind in new dimensions, in a false reality which is totally different by the one that we know. But this reality is quite similar, with its ancient buildings and fantastic landscapes, to the ones which the Romans of the Empire searched in their wonderful villas outside the wall of the city centre. In this way we could understand how the Renaissance discovered another time not only the art of Rome, but also its functions.

arts in rome artsinrome master fine art roma

But there is also another room at the secondo floor of Villa della Farnesina, just beyond the first hall. In this case walls are totally covered by frescos depicting historical people and deeds, with Alessandro Magno and his life as main character. The general who conquered quite the entire world with his enomrous army, arriving in India and getting in touch with numerous populations and tribes, was in that period a symbol of powerful. For this reason Baldassare Peruzzi decided to choose him, in order to create a connection with Agostino Chigi. In this way the rich man could be consider himself as a sort of man who could rule the world with his main weapon: money

The “Pulcino della Minerva”: an elephant in the City Centre

Piazza della Minerva a Roma e il Pulcino del BerniniUsually Rome conceals hidden treasures which aren’t so easy to see. But there are also other monuments or little art masterpieces that everyone can look. For example, very close to the Pantheon, the famous ancient Roman temple changed in a Basilica, there’s a tasteful obelisk which surmounts an…elephant!
This is the history of the “Pulcino della Minerva”, that we could translate in English like “Minerva’s chick”.

Where is it?

We stay in Piazza della Minerva, a little square surrounded by a great and graceful Basilica, named Santa Maria della Minerva, a famous hotel and other two palaces.
In order to understand the history of that crazy sculpted group set just in the centre of this square, I’m to explain something about the palace which stands just next to the Basilica.
It was one of the headquartes of the Holy Inquisition, the sacred tribunal of the Christian Church that was born during the XVI century.
The main purpose of the Inquisition was to change and “improve” the mistakes in the faith of the heretic people. Sometimes this institution used to tortured that men and women who didn’t want to change their way to believe in God.
Piazza_della_Minerva_con_il_Pulcino_e_il_Pantheon_2880_banThe palace was erected during the XIII Century for the Dominican order and in the XVI century was chosen like the place in which had to take place the trials against the heretics. Also Galileo Galilei got in it, forswearing what he claimed about the Universe… Moreover, according to the Christian theology, there was an aspect that leads the Inquisition deeds: the Knowledge. So, during the XVII century, when the Pope Innocenzo X decided to restore the square, embellishing Rome and his city centre, he called one of the best artist in that period: Bernini.

The Pope commissioned to the great master of art something which could underline how the Knowledge, mainly in that place, could lead the Church. And Bernini projected this graceful and brilliant sculpted group. The dynamic and wonderful Elephant, with the strong trunk moving by the wind, represents the Mind, while the obelisk symbolizes the Knowledge. The famous Egyptian artifact was brought to light after some excavations made in that area: it represented one of the decorations of the ancient Temple of Iside, one of the goddesses in Egypt, which stood there during the Roman Empire.

Pulcin_della_Minerva_2006_n2_banBernini took his inspiration by an arcane book, very famous in Rome, named “Hypnerotomachia Poliphili”, which translates as “Polifilo’s Dream”. In one of his dreams, Polifilo saw an elephant with an obelisck, claiming: “We need to a strong mind for support the burden of the Knwoledge”. And Bernini managed to change the dream in reality, using marble and rocks.

Bernini was used to thinking about new escamotages for his creations…but we are quite at the end of the history. Ther’s just a question. Why is the name so strange? If we look the statue maybe you could think that it is a bit heavy, mainly the elephant dressed with this caparison that looks like a curtain. Why did Bernini choose it? Because the artist had many troubles with the Pope and his way to understand and live the art. Bernini in fact wanted to insert between the elephant’s paws simply an opens space. He desidered to create a sort of feeling of lightness…but the Pope denied it and Bernini changed his project. The name takes his origin from the word “Porcino”, that means a sort of insult, which develop over the centuries in the modern “Pulcino”.