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Baroque architecture, starting in the early 17th century in Italymarker, took the humanist Roman vocabulary of Renaissance architecture and used it in a new rhetorical, theatrical, sculptural fashion, expressing the triumph of absolutist church and state. New architectural concerns for color, light and shade, sculptural values and intensity characterize the Baroque. But whereas the Renaissance drew on the wealth and power of the Italian courts, and was a blend of secular and religious forces, the Baroque was, initially at least, directly linked to the Counter-Reformation, a movement within the Catholic Church to reform itself in response to the Protestant Reformation. The Council of Trent (1545–1563) is usually given as the beginning of the Counter-Reformation.

The Baroque played into the demand for an architecture that was on the one hand more accessible to the emotions and, on the other hand, a visible statement of the wealth and power of the Church. The new style manifested itself in particular in the context of new religious orders, like the Theatines and the Jesuits, which aimed to improve popular piety. By the middle of the 17th century, the Baroque style had found its secular expression in the form of grand palaces, first in Francemarker—as in the Château de Maisonsmarker (1642) near Parismarker by François Mansart—and then throughout Europe.

Precursors and features of Baroque architecture

Image:Il Gesu.jpg|Façade of the Church of the Gesùmarker, a precursor of Baroque architectureImage:Trier Kurfuerstliches Palais BW 1.JPG|Elector's Palace in Triermarker (Germany)Image:Santa Susanna (Rome) - facade.jpg|Santa Susannamarker: Carlo MadernoImage:Catane San Benedetto1.jpg|Sicilian Baroque: San Benedetto in Cataniamarker

Michelangelo's late Roman buildings, particularly St. Peter's Basilicamarker, may be considered precursors of Baroque architecture, as the design of the latter achieves a colossal unity that was previously unknown. His pupil Giacomo della Porta continued this work in Rome, particularly in the façade of the Jesuit church Il Gesumarker, which leads directly to the most important church façade of the early Baroque, Santa Susannamarker by Carlo Maderno. In the 17th century, the Baroque style spread through Europe and Latin America, where it was particularly promoted by the Jesuits.

Important features of Baroque architecture include:

The Baroque and Colonialism

Though the tendency has been to see Baroque architecture as a European phenomenon, one must not forget that it coincided with—and is integrally enmeshed with—the rise of European colonialism. Colonialisms required the development of centralized and powerful governments with Spain and France, the first to move in this direction. Colonialism brought in huge amounts of wealth not only in the silver that was extracted from the mines in Bolivia, Mexico and elsewhere, but also in the resultant trade in commodities, such as sugar and tobacco. The need to control trade routes, monopolies and slavery controlled primarily by the French during the 17th century, created an almost endless cycle of wars between the colonial powers: the French religious wars, the Thirty Years' War (1618 and 1648), Franco–Spanish War (1653), the Franco-Dutch War (1672–1678) and so on. The initial mismanagement of colonial wealth by the Spaniards led them into bankruptcy in the 16th century (1557 and 1560), recovering only slowly in the following century. This explains why the Baroque style, though enthusiastically developed in Spain, was to a large extent, in Spain, an architecture of surfaces and façades, unlike in France and Austria where we see the construction of numerous huge palaces and monasteries. In contrast to Spain, the French, under Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619–1683), the minister of finance, had begun to industrialize their economy and thus were able to become initially at least the prime benefactors of the flow of wealth. While this was good for the building industries and the arts, the new wealth created an inflation, the likes of which had never been experienced before. Basically, the rich became richer and the poor became poorer. Rome was known just as much for its new sumptuous churches as for its vagabonds.

Rome and South Italy

The sacred architecture of the Baroque period had its beginnings in the Italian paradigm of the basilica with crossed dome and nave. One of the first Roman structures to break with the Mannerist conventions exemplified in the Gesùmarker, was the church of Santa Susannamarker, designed by Carlo Maderno. The dynamic rhythm of columns and pilasters, central massing, and the protrusion and condensed central decoration add complexity to the structure. There is an incipient playfulness with the rules of classic design, still maintaining rigor. They had domed roofs.

The same emphasis on plasticity, continuity and dramatic effects is evident in the work of Pietro da Cortona, illustrated by San Luca e Santa Martina (1635) and Santa Maria della Pacemarker (1656). The latter building, with concave wings devised to simulate a theatrical set, presses forward to fill a tiny piazza in front of it. Other Roman ensembles of the period are likewise suffused with theatricality, dominating the surrounding cityscape as a sort of theatrical environment.

Probably the best known example of such an approach is trapezoidal Saint Peter's Squaremarker, which has been praised as a masterstroke of Baroque theatre. The square is shaped by two colonnades, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini on an unprecedented colossal scale to suit the space and provide emotions of awe. Bernini's own favourite design was the polychromatic oval church of Sant'Andrea al Quirinalemarker (1658), which, with its lofty altar and soaring dome, provides a concentrated sampling of the new architecture. His idea of the Baroque townhouse is typified by the Palazzo Barberinimarker (1629) and Palazzo Chigi-Odescalchi (1664), both in Rome.

Bernini's chief rival in the papal capital was Francesco Borromini, whose designs deviate from the regular compositions of the ancient world and Renaissance even more dramatically. Acclaimed by later generations as a revolutionary in architecture, Borromini condemned the anthropomorphic approach of the 16th century, choosing to base his designs on complicated geometric figures (modules). Borromini's architectural space seems to expand and contract when needed, showing some affinity with the late style of Michelangelo. His iconic masterpiece is the diminutive church of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontanemarker, distinguished by a corrugated oval plan and complex convex-concave rhythms. A later work, Sant'Ivo alla Sapienzamarker, displays the same antipathy to the flat surface and playful inventiveness, epitomized by a corkscrew lantern dome.

Following the death of Bernini in 1680, Carlo Fontana emerged as the most influential architect working in Romemarker. His early style is exemplified by the slightly concave façade of San Marcello al Corsomarker). Fontana's academic approach, though lacking in the dazzling inventiveness of his Roman predecessors, exerted substantial influence on Baroque architecture both through his prolific writings and through a number of architects whom he trained and who would disseminate the Baroque idioms throughout 18th-century Europe.

The 18th century saw the capital of Europe's architectural world transferred from Rome to Parismarker. The Italian Rococo, which flourished in Rome from the 1720s onward, was profoundly influenced by the ideas of Borromini. The most talented architects active in Rome — Francesco de Sanctis (Spanish Stepsmarker, 1723) and Filippo Raguzzini (Piazza Sant'Ignazio, 1727) — had little influence outside their native country, as did numerous practitioners of the Sicilian Baroque, including Giovanni Battista Vaccarini, Andrea Palma, and Giuseppe Venanzio Marvuglia.

The last phase of Baroque architecture in Italy is exemplified by Luigi Vanvitelli's Caserta Palacemarker, reputedly the largest building erected in Europe in the 18th century. Indebted to contemporary French and Spanish models, the palace is skillfully related to the landscape. At Naples and Caserta, Vanvitelli practiced a sober classicizing academic style, with equal attention to aesthetics and engineering, a style that would make an easy transition to Neoclassicism.

North Italy

In the north of Italy, the monarchs from the House of Savoy were particularly receptive to the new style. They employed a brilliant triad of architects—Guarino Guarini, Filippo Juvarra and Bernardo Vittone—to illustrate the grandiose political ambitions and the newly acquired royal status of their dynasty.

Guarini was a peripatetic monk who combined many traditions (including that of Gothic architecture) to create irregular structures remarkable for their oval columns and unconventional façades. Building upon the findings of contemporary geometry and stereotomy, Guarini elaborated the concept of architectura obliqua, which approximated Borromini's style in both theoretical and structural audacity. Guarini's Palazzo Carignano (1679) may have been the most flamboyant application of the Baroque style to the design of a private house in the 17th century.

Fluid forms, weightless details and airy prospects of Juvarra's architecture anticipated the art of Rococo. Although his practice ranged well beyond Turinmarker, Juvarra's most arresting designs were created for Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia. The visual impact of his Basilica di Supergamarker (1717) derives from its soaring roofline and masterful placement on a hill above Turin. Rustic ambience encouraged a freer articulation of architectural form at the royal hunting lodge of the Palazzina di Stupinigimarker (1729). Juvarra finished his short but eventful career in Madrid, where he worked on the royal palaces at La Granjamarker and Aranjuezmarker.

Among the many who were profoundly influenced by the brilliance and diversity of Juvarra and Guarini none was more important than Bernardo Vittone. This Piedmontese architect is remembered for an outcrop of flamboyant Rococo churches, quatrefoil in plan and delicate in detailing. His sophisticated designs often feature multiple vaults, structures within structures and domes within domes.


The centre of Baroque secular architecture was Francemarker, where the open three wing layout of the palace was established as the canonical solution as early as the 16th century. But it was the Palais du Luxembourgmarker by Salomon de Brosse that determined the sober and classicizing direction that French Baroque architecture was to take. For the first time, the corps de logis was emphasized as the representative main part of the building, while the side wings were treated as hierarchically inferior and appropriately scaled down. The medieval tower has been completely replaced by the central projection in the shape of a monumental three-storey gateway.

De Brosse's melding of traditional French elements (e.g. lofty mansard roofs and complex roofline) with extensive Italianate quotations (e.g. ubiquitous rustication, derived from Palazzo Pittimarker in Florencemarker) came to characterize the Louis XIII style. Probably the most accomplished formulator of the new manner was François Mansart, a tireless perfectionist credited with introducing the full Baroque to France. In his design for Château de Maisonsmarker (1642), Mansart succeeded in reconciling academic and Baroque approaches, while demonstrating respect for the gothic-inherited idiosyncrasies of the French tradition.
The Château of Maisons (illustration) demonstrates the ongoing transition from the post-medieval chateaux of the 16th century to the villa-like country houses of the 18th. The structure is strictly symmetrical, with an order applied to each story, mostly in pilaster form. The frontispiece, crowned with a separate aggrandized roof, is infused with remarkable plasticity and the whole ensemble reads like a three-dimensional whole. Mansart's structures are stripped of overblown decorative effects, so typical of contemporary Rome. Italian Baroque influence is muted and relegated to the field of decorative ornamentation.

The next step in the development of European residential architecture involved the integration of the gardens in the composition of the palace, as is exemplified by Vaux-le-Vicomtemarker), where the architect Louis Le Vau, the designer Charles Le Brun and the gardener André Le Nôtre complemented each other. From the main cornice to a low plinth, the miniature palace is clothed in the so-called "colossal order", which makes the structure look more impressive. The creative collaboration of Le Vau and Le Nôtre marked the arrival of the "Magnificent Manner" which allowed to extend Baroque architecture outside the palace walls and transform the surrounding landscape into an immaculate mosaic of expansive vistas.

The same three artists scaled this concept to monumental proportions in the royal hunting lodge and later main residence at Versaillesmarker). On a far grander scale, the palace is an exaggerated and somewhat repetitive version of Vaux-le-Vicomte. It was both the most grandiose and the most imitated residential building of the 17th century. Mannheimmarker, Nordkirchenmarker and Drottningholmmarker were among many foreign residences for which Versailles provided a model.

The final expansion of Versailles was superintended by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, whose key design is the Dome des Invalidesmarker), generally regarded as the most important French church of the century. Hardouin-Mansart profited from his uncle's instruction and plans to instill the edifice with an imperial grandeur unprecedented in the countries north of Italy. The majestic hemispherical dome balances the vigorous vertical thrust of the orders, which do not accurately convey the structure of the interior. The younger architect not only revived the harmony and balance associated with the work of the elder Mansart but also set the tone for Late Baroque French architecture, with its grand ponderousness and increasing concessions to academicism.

The reign of Louis XV saw a reaction against the official Louis XIV Style in the shape of a more delicate and intimate manner, known as Rococo. The style was pioneered by Nicolas Pineau, who collaborated with Hardouin-Mansart on the interiors of the royal Château de Marlymarker. Further elaborated by Pierre Le Pautre and Juste-Aurèle Meissonier, the "genre pittoresque" culminated in the interiors of the Petit Château at Chantillymarker (c. 1722) and Hôtel de Soubisemarker in Paris (c. 1732), where a fashionable emphasis on the curvilinear went beyond all reasonable measure, while sculpture, paintings, furniture, and porcelain tended to overshadow architectural divisions of the interior.


The island of Maltamarker contains a variety of Baroque architecture, most importantly the capital city of Vallettamarker. It was laid out in 1566 to fortify the Knights of Rhodes, who had taken over the island when they were driven from Rhodes by Islamic armies. The city, designed by Francesco Laparelli on a grid plan, and built up over the next century, remains a particularly coherent example of Baroque urbanism. Its massive fortifications, which were considered state of the art until the modern age, are also largely intact.Valletta became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.


There is little Baroque about Dutch architecture of the 17th century. The architecture of the first republic in Northern Europe was meant to reflect democratic values by quoting extensively from classical antiquity. Like contemporary developments in England, Dutch Palladianism is marked by sobriety and restraint. Two leading architects, Jacob van Campen and Pieter Post, used such eclectic elements as giant-order pilasters, gable roofs, central pediments, and vigorous steeples in a coherent combination that anticipated Wren's Classicism.

The most ambitious constructions of the period included the seats of self-government in Amsterdammarker (1646) and Maastrichtmarker (1658), designed by Campen and Post, respectively. On the other hand, the residences of the House of Orange are closer to a typical burgher mansion than to a royal palace. Two of these, Huis ten Boschmarker and Mauritshuismarker, are symmetrical blocks with large windows, stripped of ostentatious Baroque flourishes and mannerisms. The same austerely geometrical effect is achieved without great cost or pretentious effects at the stadholder's summer residence of Het Loomarker.

The Dutch Republic was one of the great powers of 17th-century Europe and its influence on European architecture was by no means negligible. Dutch architects were employed on important projects in Northern Germany, Scandinavia and Russia, disseminating their ideas in those countries. The Dutch colonial architecture, once flourishing in the Hudson River Valley and associated primarily with red-brick gabled houses, may still be seen in Willemstad, Netherlands Antillesmarker.

Spain and Belgium

As Italian Baroque influences penetrated across the Pyreneesmarker, they gradually superseded in popularity the restrained classicizing approach of Juan de Herrera, which had been in vogue since the late 16th century. As early as 1667, the façades of Granada Cathedralmarker (by Alonso Cano) and Jaen Cathedralmarker (by Eufrasio López de Rojas) suggest the artists' fluency in interpreting traditional motifs of Spanish cathedral architecture in the Baroque aesthetic idiom.

In contrast to the art of Northern Europe, the Spanish art of the period appealed to the emotions rather than seeking to please the intellect. The Churriguera family, which specialized in designing altars and retables, revolted against the sobriety of the Herreresque classicism and promoted an intricate, exaggerated, almost capricious style of surface decoration known as the Churrigueresque. Within half a century, they transformed Salamancamarker into an exemplary Churrigueresque city. Among the highlights of the style, interiors of the Granada Charterhouse offer some of the most impressive combinations of space and light in 18th-century Europe. Integrating sculpture and architecture even more radically, Narciso Tomé achieved striking chiaroscuro effects in his Transparente for the Toledo Cathedralmarker.

The development of the style passed through three phases. Between 1680 and 1720, the Churriguera popularized Guarini's blend of Solomonic columns and composite order, known as the "supreme order". Between 1720 and 1760, the Churrigueresque column, or estipite, in the shape of an inverted cone or obelisk, was established as a central element of ornamental decoration. The years from 1760 to 1780 saw a gradual shift of interest away from twisted movement and excessive ornamentation toward a neoclassical balance and sobriety.

Two of the most eye-catching creations of Spanish Baroque are the energetic façades of the University of Valladolidmarker (Diego Tomé, 1719) and Hospicio de San Fernando in Madridmarker (Pedro de Ribera, 1722), whose curvilinear extravagance seems to herald Antonio Gaudi and Art Nouveau. In this case as in many others, the design involves a play of tectonic and decorative elements with little relation to structure and function. The focus of the florid ornamentation is an elaborately sculptured surround to a main doorway. If we remove the intricate maze of broken pediments, undulating cornices, stucco shells, inverted tapers and garlands from the rather plain wall it is set against, the building's form would not be affected in the slightest.

Baroque Architecture in the Southern Netherlands developed rather differently than in the Protestant North. After the Twelve Years' Truce the Southern Netherlands remained in Catholic hands, ruled by the Spanish Habsburg Kings. Important architectural projects were set up in the spirit of the Counter Reformation. In them, florid decorative detailing was more tightly knit to the structure, thus precluding concerns of superfluity. A remarkable convergence of Spanish, French and Dutch Baroque aesthetics may be seen in the Abbey of Averbodemarker (1667). Another characteristic example is the Church of St. Michel at Louvainmarker), with its exuberant two-storey façade, clusters of half-columns, and the complex aggregation of French-inspired sculptural detailing.

Six decades later, a Flemish architect, Jaime Borty Milia, was the first to introduce Rococo to Spain (Cathedral of Murciamarker, west façade, 1733). The greatest practitioner of the Spanish Rococo style was a native master, Ventura Rodríguez, responsible for the dazzling interior of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillarmarker in Saragossamarker (1750).

Some Flemish architects such as Wenceslas Cobergher were trained in Italy and their works were inspired by architects such as Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola and Giacomo della Porta. Cobergher's most major project was the Basilica of Our Lady of Scherpenheuvelmarker which he designed as the center of a new town in the form of a heptagon.The influence of the painter Pieter Paul Rubens on architecture was very important. With his book "I Palazzi di Genova" he introduced novel Italian models for the conception of profane buildings and decoration in the Southern Netherlands. The Courtyard and Portico of his own house in Antwerp (Rubenshuismarker) are good examples of his architectural activity.He also took part in the decoration of the Antwerp Jesuit Church (now Carolus-Borromeuskerk) where he introduced a lavish Baroque decoration, integrating sculpture and painting in the architectural program.

Spanish America

The combination of the Native American and Moorish decorative influences with an extremely expressive interpretation of the Churrigueresque idiom may account for the full-bodied and varied character of the Baroque in the American colonies of Spain. Even more than its Spanish counterpart, American Baroque developed as a style of stucco decoration. Twin-towered façades of many American cathedrals of the 17th century had medieval roots and the full-fledged Baroque did not appear until 1664, when a Jesuit shrine on Plaza des Armas in Cuscomarker was built. Even then, the new style hardly affected the structure of churches.

To the north, the richest province of 18th-century New SpainMexicomarker — produced some fantastically extravagant and visually frenetic architecture known as Mexican Churrigueresque. This ultra-Baroque approach culminates in the works of Lorenzo Rodriguez, whose masterpiece is the Sagrario Metropolitanomarker in Mexico Citymarker). Other fine examples of the style may be found in remote silver-mining towns. For instance, the Sanctuary at Ocotlán (begun in 1745) is a top-notch Baroque cathedral surfaced in bright red tiles, which contrast delightfully with a plethora of compressed ornament lavishly applied to the main entrance and the slender flanking towers ( exterior, interior).

The true capital of Mexican Baroque is Pueblamarker, where a ready supply of hand-painted ceramics (talavera) and vernacular gray stone led to its evolving further into a personalised and highly localised art form with a pronounced Indian flavour. There are about sixty churches whose façades and domes display glazed tiles of many colours, often arranged in Arabic designs. The interiors are densely saturated with elaborate gold leaf ornamentation. In the 18th century, local artisans developed a distinctive brand of white stucco decoration, named "alfenique" after a Pueblan candy made from egg whites and sugar.

The Peruvian Baroque was particularly lavish, as evidenced by the monastery of San Francisco at Limamarker (1673). While the rural Baroque of the Jesuit Block and Estancias of Córdobamarker in Córdoba, Argentinamarker, followed the model of Il Gesu, provincial "mestizo" (crossbred) styles emerged in Arequipamarker, Potosímarker and La Pazmarker. In the 18th century, architects of the region turned for inspiration to the Mudejar art of medieval Spain. The late Baroque type of Peruvian façade first appears in the Church of Our Lady of La Merced, Lima). Similarly, the Church of La Compañia, Quitomarker) suggests a carved altarpiece with its richly sculpted façade and a surfeit of spiral salomónica.

Portugal and Brazil

Nothwithstanding a prodigality of sensually rich surface decoration associated with Baroque architecture of the Iberian Peninsula, the royal courts of Madridmarker and Lisbonmarker generally favoured a more sober architectural vocabulary distilled from 17th-century Italy. The royal palaces of Madridmarker, La Granjamarker, Aranjuezmarker, Maframarker and Queluzmarker were designed by architects under strong influence of Bernini and Juvarra. In the realm of church architecture, Guarini's design for Sta. Maria della Divina Providenza in Lisbon was a pace-setter for structural audacity in the region (even though it was never built).

In Portugal, the first fully Baroque church was the Church of Santa Engráciamarker, in Lisbon, designed by royal architect João Antunes, which is has a Greek cross floorplan and curved facades. Antunes also designed churches in which the inner space is rectangular but with curved corners (like the Menino de Deus Church in Lisbon), a scheme that is found in several 18th century churches in Portugal and Brazil. The court of John V, on the other hand, favoured Roman baroque models, as attested by the work of royal architect Ludovice, a German who designed the Royal Palace of Maframarker, built after 1715.

By the mid-18th century, northern Portuguese architects had absorbed the concepts of Italian Baroque to revel in the plasticity of local granite in such projects as the surging 75-metre-high Torre dos Clérigosmarker in Portomarker). The foremost centre of the national Baroque tradition was Braga, whose buildings encompass virtually every important feature of Portuguese architecture and design. The Baroque shrines and palaces of Braga are noted for polychrome ornamental patterns, undulating rooflines, and irregularly shaped window surrounds.

Brazilianmarker architects also explored plasticity in form and decoration, though they rarely surpassed their continental peers in ostentation. The churches of Marianamarker and the Rosario at Ouro Pretomarker are based on Borromini's vision of interlocking elliptical spaces. At São Pedro dos Clérigos, Recifemarker), a conventional stucco-and-stone façade is enlivened by "a high scrolled gable squeezed tightly between the towers".

Even after the Baroque conventions passed out of fashion in Europe, the style was long practised in Brazil by Aleijadinho, a brilliant and prolific architect in whose designs hints of Rococo could be discerned. His church of Bom Jesus de Matozinhos at Congonhasmarker is distinguished by a picturesque silhouette and dark ornamental detail on a light stuccoed façade. Although Aleijadinho was originally commissioned to design São Francisco de Assis, São João del Reimarker his designs were rejected, and were displaced to the church of São Francisco in Ouro Preto instead.


Baroque aesthetics, whose influence was so potent in mid-17th century France, made little impact in England during the Protectorate and the first Restoration years. For a decade between the death of Inigo Jones in 1652 and Christopher Wren's visit to Paris in 1665 there was no English architect of the accepted premier class. Unsurprisingly, general interest in European architectural developments was slight.

It was Wren who presided over the genesis of the English Baroque manner, which differed from the continental models by clarity of design and subtle taste for classisism. Following the Great Fire of Londonmarker, Wren rebuilt fifty-three churches, where Baroque aesthetics are apparent primarily in dynamic structure and multiple changing views. His most ambitious work was St Paul's Cathedralmarker, which bears comparison with the most effulgent domed churches of Italy and France. In this majestically proportioned edifice, the Palladian tradition of Inigo Jones is fused with contemporary continental sensibilities in masterly equilibrium. Less influential were straightforward attempts to engraft the Berniniesque vision onto British church architecture (e.g. by Thomas Archer in St. John's, Smith Squaremarker, 1728).
Although Wren was also active in secular architecture, the first truly Baroque country house in England was built to a design by William Talman at Chatsworthmarker, starting in 1687. The culmination of Baroque architectural forms comes with Sir John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor. Each was capable of a fully developed architectural statement, yet they preferred to work in tandem, most notably at Castle Howardmarker (1699) and Blenheim Palacemarker (1705).

Although these two palaces may appear somewhat ponderous or turgid to Italian eyes, their heavy embellishment and overpowering mass captivated the British public, albeit for a short while. Castle Howard is a flamboyant assembly of restless masses dominated by a cylindrical domed tower which would not be out of place in Dresdenmarker or Munichmarker. Blenheim is a more solid construction, where the massed stone of the arched gates and the huge solid portico becomes the main ornament. Vanbrugh's final work was Seaton Delaval Hallmarker (1718), a comparatively modest mansion yet unique in the structural audacity of its style. It was at Seaton Delaval that Vanbrugh, a skillful playwright, achieved the peak of Restoration drama, once again highlighting a parallel between Baroque architecture and contemporary theatre. Despite his efforts, Baroque was never truly to the English taste and well before his death in 1724 the style had lost currency in Britain.


French châteaux of the 17th century provided models for numerous country houses across Northern Europe

During the golden age of the Swedish Empire, the architecture of Nordic countries was dominated by the Swedish court architect Nicodemus Tessin the Elder and his son Nicodemus Tessin the Younger. Their aesthetic was readily adopted across the Baltic, in Copenhagenmarker and Saint Petersburgmarker.

Born in Germany, Tessin the Elder endowed Sweden with a truly national style, a well-balanced mixture of contemporary French and medieval Hanseatic elements. His designs for the royal manor of Drottningholmmarker seasoned French prototypes with Italian elements, while retaining some peculiarly Nordic features, such as the hipped roof (säteritak).

Tessin the Younger shared his father's enthusiasm for discrete palace façades. His design for the Stockholm Palacemarker draws so heavily on Bernini's unexecuted plans for the Louvremarker that one could well imagine it standing in Naples, Vienna, or Saint Petersburg. Another example of the so-called International Baroque, based on Roman models with little concern for national specifics, is the Royal Palace of Madridmarker. The same approach is manifested is Tessin's polychrome domeless Kalmar Cathedral, a skillful pastiche of early Italian Baroque, clothed in a giant order of paired Ionic pilasters.

It was not until the mid-18th century that Danish and Russian architecture emancipated from Swedish influence. A milestone of this late period is Nicolai Eigtved's design for a new district of Copenhagenmarker centred on the Amalienborg Palacemarker). The palace is composed of four rectangular mansions for the four greatest nobles of the kingdom, arranged across the angles of an octagonal square. The restrained façades of the mansions hark back to French antecedents, while their interiors contain some of the finest Rococo decoration in Northern Europe.

Holy Roman Empire

In the Holy Roman Empire, the Baroque period began somewhat later. Although the Augsburgmarker architect Elias Holl (1573–1646) and some theoretists, including Joseph Furttenbach the Elder already practiced the Baroque style, they remained without successors due to the ravages of the Thirty Years' War. From about 1650 on, construction work resumes, and secular and ecclesiastical architecture are of equal importance. During an initial phase, master-masons from southern Switzerland and northern Italy, the so-called magistri Grigioni and the Lombard master-masons, particularly the Carlone family from Val d'Intelvi, dominated the field. However, Austriamarker came soon to develop its own characteristic Baroque style during the last third of the 17th century. Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach was impressed by Bernini. He forged a new Imperial style by compiling architectural motifs from the entire history, most prominently seen in his church of St. Charles Borromeomarker in Vienna. Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt also had an Italian training. He developed a highly decorative style, particularly in façade architecture, which exerted strong influences on southern Germany.

Frequently, the Southern German Baroque is distinguished from the Northern German Baroque, which is more properly the distinction between the Catholic and the Protestant Baroque.

In the Catholic South, the Jesuit church of St. Michaelmarker in Munichmarker was the first to bring Italian style across the Alps. However, its influence on the further development of church architecture was rather limited. A much more practical and more adaptable model of church architecture was provided by the Jesuit church in Dillingen): the wall-pillar church, i.e. a barrel-vaulted nave accompanied by large open chapels separated by wall-pillars. As opposed to St. Michael's in Munich, the chapels almost reach the height of the nave in the wall-pillar church, and their vault (usually transverse barrel-vaults) springs from the same level as the main vault of the nave. The chapels provide ample lighting; seen from the entrance of the church, the wall-pillars form a theatrical setting for the side altars. The wall-pillar church was further developed by the Vorarlbergmarker school, as well as the master-masons of Bavariamarker. The wall-pillar church also integrated well with the hall church model of the German late Gothic age. The wall-pillar church continued to be used throughout the 18th century (e.g. even in the early neo-classical church of Rot an der Rot Abbeymarker), and early wall-pillar churches could easily be refurbished by re-decoration without any structural changes, e.g. the church at Dillingen.

However, the Catholic South also received influences from other sources, e.g. the so-called radical Baroque of Bohemia. The radical Baroque of Christoph Dientzenhofer and his son Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer, both residing at Praguemarker, was inspired by examples from northern Italy, particularly by the works of Guarino Guarini. It is characterized by the curvature of walls and intersection of oval spaces. While some Bohemian influence is visible in Bavaria's most prominent architect of the period, Johann Michael Fischer, e.g. in the curved balconies of some of his earlier wall-pillar churches, the works of Balthasar Neumann, in particular the Basilica of the Vierzehnheiligenmarker, are generally considered to be the final synthesis of Bohemian and German traditions.

Protestant sacred architecture was of lesser importance during the Baroque, and produced only a few works of prime importance, particularly the Frauenkirchemarker in Dresdenmarker. Architectural theory was more lively in the north than in the south of Germany, e.g. Leonhard Christoph Sturm's edition of Nikolaus Goldmann, but Sturm's theoretical considerations (e.g. on Protestant church architecture) never really made it to practical application. In the south, theory essentially reduced to the use of buildings and elements from illustrated books and engravings as a prototype.

Palace architecture was equally important both in the Catholic South and the Protestant North. After an initial phase when Italian architects and influences dominated (Viennamarker, Rastattmarker), French influence prevailed from the second decennium of the 18th century onwards. The French model is characterized by the horseshoe-like layout enclosing a cour d'honneur (courtyard) on the town side (chateau entre cour et jardin), whereas the Italian (and also Austrian) scheme presents a block-like villa. The principal achievements of German Palace architecture, often worked out in close collaboration of several architects, provide a synthesis of Austro-Italian and French models. The most outstanding palace which blends Austro-Italian and French influences into a completely new type of building is the Würzburg Residencemarker. While its general layout is the horseshoe-like French plan, it encloses interior courtyards. Its façades combine Lucas von Hildebrandt's love of decoration with French-style classical orders in two superimposed stories; its interior features the famous Austrian "imperial staircase", but also a French-type enfilade of rooms on the garden side, inspired by the "apartement semi-double" layout of French castles.

Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

The first Baroque church in Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was the Corpus Christi Church in Niasvižmarker, Belarusmarker (1587). It also holds a distinction of being the first domed basilica with Baroque façade in the world and the first Baroque piece of art in Eastern Europe.

The royal patronage was emanating from Warsawmarker, the new capital of the Commonwealth. The King's residence at the Royal Castlemarker, reconstructed between 1596 and 1619, served as a model for magnates eager to imitate the court architecture, for example, in Voivode Denhoff's residence in Kruszyna (1630), which had only two towers, Lubomirski's castle in Łańcutmarker (1629-1641) and Rzeszówmarker Castle (1682). A suburban palace for King Władysław IV VasaVilla Regia, was built by Giovanni Trevano in a beautiful garden in 1637–41. The magnates throughout Poland competed with the kings. The monumental castle Krzyżtopór in Ujazdmarker, built for Krzysztof Ossoliński in the style palazzo in fortezza between 1627 and 1644, had several courtyards surrounded by massive star-shaped fortifications as well as Niasviž Castlemarker, Castle in Pidgirtsy, Kazanowski Palacemarker and Koniecpolski Palacemarker in Warsaw, Bishop's Palace in Kielcemarker, Nowy Wiśniczmarker Castle, Radziwiłł Palacemarker in Vilniusmarker and Biržai Castlemarker.

Sculptures that profusely decorated churches, castles, and palaces were made out of stucco, stone, brown marble from Chęcinymarker or black marble from Dębnik near Krakówmarker. Many of them were captured, looted, and destroyed by the Swedes and Brandenburgians between 1655 and 1657, it has never been restored.

The most representative and sumptuous Baroque residence was erected after the Deluge: Wilanów Palacemarker, Sandomierski Palacemarker, Lubomirski bathing pavilionmarker, Marywil, Saxon Palacemarker, Branicki Palacemarker in Warsaw, Sapieha Palacemarker and Slushko Palacemarker in Vilnius, Branicki Palace in Białystokmarker, Potocki Palace in Radzyń Podlaskimarker, Czartoryski Palace in Puławymarker, Leszczyński Palace in Rydzynamarker and Raczyński Palace in Rogalinmarker among others.

In Warsaw, which before WW2 was filled with Baroque residences, churches and houses, and where Tylman van Gameren was active, survived few important buildings—Krasiński Palacemarker, Ostrogski Palacemarker, Kotowski Palace, St. Kazimierz Churchmarker, Bernardines church in Czerniaków and Late-Baroque Visitationist Churchmarker and Holy Cross Churchmarker.

St. Mary Church in Święta Lipka (1730)

In the early 17th century, the Baroque style spread over the Commonwealth. Important Baroque churches include the Waza Chapel in the Wawel Cathedralmarker, the SS. Peter and Paul, St. Anna and the Visitationist church in Krakówmarker, St Peter and St Paul's Churchmarker, St Casimir's Chapel of the Vilnius Cathedralmarker and St Casimir's Church in Vilniusmarker, Pažaislis monasterymarker in Kaunasmarker the Dominicanmarker and St George Churchmarker in Lwówmarker, the Jesuit church in Poznańmarker, the Xavier Cathedral in Hrodnomarker, the Royal Chapel of St. Mary's Co-Cathedralmarker in Gdańskmarker, Jasna Góra Monasterymarker and Święta Lipka in Masuria.

The style was adopted by Lithuanianmarker magnates the most prominent examples of it being Sapieha Palacemarker (1697) and Slushko Palacemarker (1700) and in its capital Vilniusmarker, designed and decorated by Italian master Pietro Perti. Architects such as Johann Christoph Glaubitz were instrumental in forming the so-called distinctive "Vilnius Baroque" style, which spread throughout the region.

By the end of the century, Polish Baroque influences crossed the Dnieper into the Cossack Hetmanatemarker, where they gave birth to a particular style of Orthodox architecture, known as the Cossack Baroque. Such was its popular appeal that every medieval church in Kievmarker and the Left-Bank Ukraine was redesigned according to the newest fashion.

Hungary and Romania

In the Kingdom of Hungary the first great Baroque building was the Jesuit Church of Nagyszombatmarker built by Pietro Spozzo in 1629-37 modelling the Church of the Gesumarker in Romemarker. Jesuits were the main propagators of the new style with their churches in Győrmarker (1634-1641), Kassamarker (1671-1684), Egermarker (1731-1733) and Székesfehérvármarker (1745-1751). The reconstruction of the territories devastated by the Ottomans was carried out in Baroque style in 18th century. Intact Baroque townscapes can be found in Győrmarker, Székesfehérvármarker, Egermarker, Veszprémmarker, Esztergommarker and the Castle Districtmarker of Buda. The most important Baroque palaces in Hungary were the Royal Palacemarker in Buda, Grassalkovich Castle in Gödöllőmarker and Esterházy Castle in Fertődmarker. Smaller Baroque castles of the Hungarian aristocracy are scattered all over the country. Hungarian Baroque shows the double influence of Austrian and Italian artistic tendencies as many German and Italian architects worked in the country. The main characteristics of the local version of the style were modesty, lack of excessive decoration and some "rural" flavour, especially in the works of the local masters. Important architects of the Hungarian Baroque were András Mayerhoffer, Ignác Oraschek and Márton Wittwer. Franz Anton Pilgram also worked in the Kingdom of Hungary, for example on the great Premonstratensian monastery of Jászómarker. In the last decades of the 18th century Neo-Classical tendencies became dominant. The two most important architects of that period were Menyhért Hefele and Jakab Fellner.

Two representative Baroque structures in Transylvania (Romaniamarker) are the Brukenthal Palace in Sibiumarker and the former Bishopric Palace in Oradeamarker, state museums.


In Russiamarker, Baroque architecture passed through three stages - the early Moscow Baroque, with elegant white decorations on red-brick walls of rather traditional churches, the mature Petrine Baroque, mostly imported from the Low Countries, and the late Rastrelliesque Baroque, in the words of William Brumfield, "extravagant in design and execution, yet ordered by the rhythmic insistence of massed columns and Baroque statuary."


Istanbulmarker, once the center of the Ottoman Empire, hosts many different varieties of Baroque architecture. The most famous of these are probably the Nuruosmaniye Mosquemarker and the Ortaköy Mosquemarker. Built in the 1750s by Simeon Kalfa, the Nuruosmaniye Mosque is an "eastern" form of baroque expression and probably the most "baroque" architectural structure in Islamic architecture. The arabesque and Ottoman flavour gives it its unique atmosphere, which also distinguishes it from the later "colonial" baroque styles, largely used in the Middle East, especially Lebanonmarker. Later and more mature baroque forms in Istanbul can be found especially in the gates of the Dolmabahçe Palacemarker, built by the famous Turkish-Armenian Balyan family, which also has a very "eastern" flavour, combining Baroque, Romantic and Oriental architecture. During the construction of St.Petersburg, Tsar Peter the Great wanted his country to become more like the countries of western Europe and therefore many of the first buildings in the city are of Baroque architecture


Cossack Baroque is an architectural style that emerged in Ukraine during the Hetmanatemarker era, in the 17th and 18th centuries. Ukrainian Baroque is distinct from the Western European Baroque in having more moderate ornamentation and simpler forms, and as such was considered more constructivist. One of the unique features of the Ukrainian baroque, were bud and pear-shaped domes, that were later borrowed by the similar Naryshkin baroque.Many Ukrainian Baroque buildings have been preserved, including several buildings in Kiev Pechersk Lavramarker and the Vydubychi Monasterymarker.

See also


  1. Though there is a vast literature on the subject, a succinct overview can be found in: Francis Ching, Mark Jarzombek, Vikram Prakash, A Global History of Architecture, Wiley Press, 2006.
  2. Peter Pater. Renaissance Rome. (University of California Press, 1976) pp.70-3.
  3. Banister Fletcher's A History of Architecture, ed. by Dan Cruickshank. Architectural Press, 1996. ISBN. Page 1202.
  4. Власов В.Г. Большой энциклопедический словарь изобразительного искусства В 8т. Нарышкинский стиль

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