Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza--page 1 (of three pages)

1642-50; decoration continued until 1660

The courtyard setting for a university chapel

This small church is located at the east end of a long cortile; the main entrance is at the far end of Giacomo della Porta's courtyard. See plan of the whole.

The concave lower facade

The facade echoes the two-tier arcades of the adjoining loggias, except in the church exterior the arcades are blind. No fan of right angles, Borromini has designed a curved, concave facade.

The drum encasing the dome

The lower concave facade is countered by the hexagonal drum above which projects in convex curves, divided into three bays, the central one occupied with a long window. Pilasters emphasize the divisions.
Above the drum there is a kind of stepped pyramid with emphatic, buttress-like ribs. The lantern above has double columns with concave areas between the columns (a reverse of the drum below. The lantern ends in a dramatic spiral with a flaming laurel wreathe at the summit--a symbol of wisdom or "sapienza." The corners of the arc have in three dimensions the heraldic symbol of Pope Alexander VII--the six mountains topped by a star. (See the interior as well for this visual symbolism.)

Continue to page 2.

See also San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane by Borromini.

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© 2006 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.