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Sixteenth-Century Italian Architecture

Sixteenth-Century Italian Architecture

Author: Ian McConnell

Identify significant sixteenth-century Italian architectural examples. 

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Sixteenth-Century Architecture

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell. And today's lesson is about 16th century architecture.

As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as often as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives, or the things we're going to learn today, are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you will be able to identify and define today's key terms and describe examples of 16th century Renaissance architecture.

Key terms, as always, are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. And there's just one key term today. Central planned church is a basic church architecture that designs a central space that is surrounded by smaller, symmetrical areas. The big idea for today is that the architects Bramante, Michelangelo, and Palladio designed some of the finest examples of 16th century Renaissance architecture in Italy.

And speaking of 16th century, here is the 16th century, as well as the notable excursion of Columbus in 1492 as a reference point. We're traveling again today to Italy in the cities of Rome and Vicenza. There's Rome. And there's Vicenza.

So we'll begin with the architect and artist known as Bramante. He was very well-known and respected in his time. He is one of the preeminent architects of the Renaissance, contributing such notable designs as his work on St. Peter's Basilica, which we'll look at in a moment, and this example, the Tempietto, or Little Temple, in the courtyard of San Pietro in Montorio in Rome. It's marking the supposed location of St. Peter's martyrdom.

Now, as the name suggests, it's a small building, almost functioning more as an example of sculpture than architecture. It's inspired by the design of smaller, circular Greek shrines and round Roman temples.

Now, it incorporates the elements we'd see in larger monumental structures of the time but in a condensed, sort of miniature, version that still manages to seem, somehow, fresh and original. Although classically inspired, the execution is Renaissance through and through as is evident in the combination of well-proportioned architectural elements that wouldn't have been seen in antiquity, like the drum and balustrade combination. Here's a closeup of the colonnade.

Bramante's talent landed him the opportunity to design the replacement for the older basilica-style church of St. Peter's in Rome. Bramante's original design was a central planned church, like a Greek cross, with a hemispherical shaped dome. Now, upon his death, the architectural responsibilities passed to Michelangelo.

Michelangelo had firmly established his reputation as a master architect earlier, completely redesigning the Piazza Del Campidoglio, beginning in 1536. His design is shown here-- reworking the Piazza to face toward St. Peter's as opposed to its current direction at the time, which was facing the ruins of the Roman forum.

Michelangelo was so impressed with Bramante's work that he decided to expand upon Bramante's original designs for St. Peter's. Michelangelo maintained the central planned style with some adjustments but, most notably, changed the overall design of the dome from hemispherical to ojival, like the magnificent dome of the Florence Cathedral.

Now, up in the Venetian Republic, near Vicenza, the artist Palladio was building a major career, as well as a body of work that would find influence outside of Italy, as far away as England and the United States, actually. He was well-known for his work on villas. And his most famous, the Villa Rotunda, stands as one of his most influential designs.

It was built on a hilltop with a centrally planned design that featured four porches inspired by Roman temple porticos, such as that of the Pantheon, that each had a different view of the surrounding countryside. Now, the influence of the Pantheon is very apparent. From every entrance, the building strongly resembles the overall look of the Pantheon.

Although the influence is there, it's by no means a copy of it. Palladio's dome, for example, complements the overall design rather than dominating it and is topped with a heavy lantern ala Florence Cathedral and St. Peter's Basilica versus the open oculus of the Pantheon. Now, the design is considered one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture and inspired countless designs that followed, including Thomas Jefferson's plantation at Monticello in Virginia.

So that brings us to the end of this lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives to see if we met them. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms? Can you describe examples of 16th century Renaissance architecture? And the big idea for today, once again, is that the architects Bramante, Michelangelo, and Palladio designed some of the finest examples of 16th century Renaissance architecture in Italy.

And that's it. Thank you very much for joining me today. I'll see you next time.

Terms to Know
Central Plan Church

Basic church architecture that designs a central space that is surrounded by smaller symmetrical areas.