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Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > M > Carlo Maderna

Carlo Maderna

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(1556-1629) known principally by his extension of St. Peter's, at the command of the pope, from the form of a Greek to that of a Latin cross. Regard for ecclesiastical tradition and other issues made the long nave preferable, notwithstanding that the effect of the cupola was thus much diminished. Maderna began his task in the year 1605, forty years after the death of Michelangelo. By bringing the columns nearer together, be sought to lessen the unfavorable effect produced, but in so doing obstructed the former unbroken vista in the side aisles. However, notwithstanding the extension, the great basilica has not lost its sublime grandeur.

The new façade was widened. It is an ornamental structure independent of the building itself, and its impressive size does not harmonize with the character of the decorations. The length measures 112 metres (367 ft. 4 in.) and the height 44 metres (144 ft. 4 in.). Eight gigantic columns, 27 metres (88 ft. 6 1/2 in.) in height, stand in two divisions, on both sides of which are pillars and embedded pillars. Above these extends an entablature with balustrades, and an arch surmounts the portals. Upon this entablature stand statues of Christ and the Apostles, 5 to 7 metres (16 to 22 ft.) high. Massive corner- pieces were intended for bell-towers, the lack of which at the present day weakens the effect of the façade. In the arrangement of the foreground and background, and in the different effects of intercolumniation much freedom is used not without many happy shadow effects. Between the building, which was itself lengthened by 50 metres (164 ft.), and the façade, there is a vestibule 71 metres (nearly 233 ft.) wide, 13 metres (42 ft. 6 in.) deep, and 20 metres (65 ft. 6 in.) high, leading into the five entrances. The interior of this vestibule is the finest work of the master, and it has even been rated one of the most beautiful architectural works of Rome, on account of the lordly proportions, the symmetrical arrangement, and the simple colouring, the relief on the ceiling being painted in white and dark yellow.

The two fountains in the open space (piazza) before St. Peter's are also much admired. The façade of St. Susanna and that of the Incurabili, as lesser works were better suited to the genius of Maderna. He also provided Sta. Francesca Romana with a façade in the Baroque style. In all these works, the want of harmony between the façade and the main body of the church was an inheritance from the Renaissance. But it was partially through the influence of Fontana, his uncle, that Maderna was even then dominated by the freedom of the Baroque style, which, in its later development, broke loose from all restraint. The serious dignity of the façade of the Gesù is not interfered with by its charming rhythm, varying shadow effects and rich decoration; and there is no lack of harmony of the whole, or of symmetry. The interior of Sant' Andrea della Valle, majestic and rich in tone gives us even now a true idea of the artistic taste of Maderna. He built a part of the Palazzo Mattei (the court, with lofty loggias) and, with Bernini, the Palazzo Barberini (the central building, with three orders of columns and an open arcade). He co-operated, besides, in many works at Rome, for example, the Quirinal Gardens. At Ferrara, he designed the fortifications.

About this page

APA citation. Gietmann, G. (1910). Carlo Maderna. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Gietmann, Gerhard. "Carlo Maderna." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Michael C. Tinkler.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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