Carlo Maderno (1556–1629) – a sought-after, hard-working and talented architect

Carlo Maderno, dome of the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle

Carlo Maderno, dome of the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle

His name is known only to a rather narrow group of art historians and architects, but it is he who to a large extent contributed to the fact that early-Baroque Rome looked as it did. It was Maderno who was the creator of significant churches, palaces, fountains, and chapels, without which today it is difficult to imagine the Eternal City. He also undertook modernizations and reconstructions of already existing buildings.

Carlo Maderno, dome of the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle
Carlo Maderno, fountain in front of the Basilica of San Pietro in Vaticano
Carlo Maderno, interior of the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria
Carlo Maderno, façade of the Church of Santa Susanna
Carlo Maderno, façade of the Basilica of San Pietro in Vaticano
Dome of the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle
Interior of the Basilica of San Pietro in Vaticano
Carlo Maderno, main altar in the Church of Santa Maria della Pace
Carlo Maderno, dome of the Basilica of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini
Carlo Maderno, portal of the Palazzo Quirinale
Carlo Maderno, façade of the Palazzo Barberini
Carlo Maderno, fountain in front of the Basilica of Sant’Andrea della Valle
Carlo Maderno, Fontana Acqua Paola
Carlo Maderno, courtyard of the Palazzo Mattei di Giove
Courtyard of the Palazzo Mattei di Giove

His name is known only to a rather narrow group of art historians and architects, but it is he who to a large extent contributed to the fact that early-Baroque Rome looked as it did. It was Maderno who was the creator of significant churches, palaces, fountains, and chapels, without which today it is difficult to imagine the Eternal City. He also undertook modernizations and reconstructions of already existing buildings.

 

He came from a veritable clan of builders and sculptors. He was the nephew of the great Domenico Fontana, while in turn Francesco Borromini was his nephew. Maderno’s stay in Rome began in 1576, when, most likely together with his brothers, he started working in the sculpting and architectural atelier of his uncle. In 1596 he took over both the workshop and clients, when the uncle accused of malpractice, left the city. Twelve years later Maderno acquired an independent commission and created a balanced, ideal in proportions façade of the Church of Santa Susanna. The façade appealed so greatly to the then pope, Paul V, that he appointed its creator to the prestigious position of chief architect  of St. Peter’s Basilica (San Pietro in Vaticano). As a result, the previous plan of the basilica, a design of Michelangelo (Michelangelo Buonarroti) was changed, from a central one into an extended one, based on the shape of the Latin cross. Maderno also changed the existing façade into the one we know today – with a balcony and a main enterance from which the pope gives blessings. This façade – which was a great compromise, a combination of solutions used in palaces and churches, integrates numerous, necessary from a liturgical point of view elements, but is also monumental, decorative and overlapping – to a large extent covered Michelangelo’s dome, towering above the church, for which Maderno was heavily criticized. All other structures – the planned side towers, a grand square with a colonnade in front of the church providing the appropriate perspective  - were created in such a way as to allow the dome to stand out from behind the façade. This did not succeed in full. As if desiring “to atone” for his sins, Maderno created another dome for Rome, second in size, imposing and well-thought-out in every detail, placing it on the body of the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle. However, the façade planned for this building was changed by his successor, which as it seems, did not turn out too well.
 
A fully completed work of Maderno, created from the beginning to the end according to his design, is the Church of Santa Maria della Vitoria – a pearl of Baroque architecture, one of the most beautiful churches of those times.
 
 
Maderno had three wives, two daughters and a son. He led a comfortable city life. He died in 1629 and was buried in the Church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini.
 
Main buildings and structures designed and completed by Carlo Maderno:
 
  •     Reconstruction and new façade of the Church of Santa Susanna, 1593-1603
  •     Aldobrandini Chapel (upper part) in the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, 1602
  •     Reconstruction of the main nave and façade of the St Peter’s Basilica, 1607-1620
  •     Dome and the interior of the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, 1608,1622
  •     Design and completion of the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, 1620
  •     Main altar in the Church of Santa Maria della Pace, 1614
  •     Dome of the Church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, 1614
  •     Plan of the garden and design of portal in the Palazzo del Quirinale, 1615
  •     Design of Palazzo Barberini 1625-1629
  •     Design of a fountain on Piazza di San Pietro
  •     Design of a fountain in front of the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle
  •     Completion of the construction of Fontana dell'Acqua Paola
  •     Reconstruction of Palazzo Matei di Giove