Showing posts with label Carlo Maderno. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Carlo Maderno. Show all posts

23 September 2018

Francesco Barberini – Cardinal

Patron of the arts sympathised with Galileo



Francesco Barberini knew Galileo from his days as a student at the University of Pisa
Francesco Barberini knew Galileo from his
days as a student at the University of Pisa
Francesco Barberini, a cardinal who as Grand Inquisitor of the Roman Inquisition refused to condemn the scientist Galileo Galilei as a heretic, was born on this day in 1597 in Florence.

As a cardinal working within the Vatican administration, Barberini also became an important patron of literature and the arts.

The son of Carlo Barberini and Costanza Magalotti, Francesco was assisted by Galileo during his studies at the University of Pisa. The scientist was also a family friend. Francesco graduated in canon and civil law at the age of 25 in 1623.

Later that year, his uncle, Maffeo Barberini, who had been recently elected as Pope Urban VIII, made him a cardinal and sent him to be papal legate to Avignon.

He was sent to Paris as a special legate to negotiate with Cardinal Richelieu and then to Spain as a papal legate, but both his missions were unsuccessful.

From 1628 onwards Barberini led the foreign diplomacy of the Papal States, always favouring France.

Galileo subscribed to the view that the Earth was not the centre of the universe
Galileo subscribed to the view that the Earth
was not the centre of the universe
From 1633 until his death more than 40 years later, Barberini was the Grand Inquisitor of the Roman Inquisition. He was part of the Inquisition tribunal investigating Galileo after the publication of writings supporting the arguments put forward by the German scientist Nicolaus Copernicus that the sun and not the earth was the centre of the universe.

He was one of three members of the tribunal who refused to condemn the scientist, although the majority verdict was that Galileo was "vehemently suspect of heresy" and he was sentenced him to indefinite imprisonment, later commuted to house arrest, where he remained until his death in 1642.

The Barberini family fortunes declined after hostilities between the papacy and the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza led to the First War of Castro in which the papacy did badly. Peace was concluded only a few months before the death of Urban VIII.

Once it became clear that the Barberini candidate for the papacy was not going to be elected. Francesco and his brother, Antonio, switched their support to Giovanni Battista Pamphili.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini's bust of  Barberini,  in the National Gallery of Art in Washington
Gian Lorenzo Bernini's bust of  Barberini,
 in the National Gallery of Art in Washington
But after Pamphili became Pope Innocent X, he launched an investigation into their handling of the finances during the War of Castro, forcing the Barberini brothers to flee to Paris.

Two years later, Francesco Barberini was pardoned, his properties were restored to him and he was able to continue as a patron of the arts.

He was a member of various literary associations and secured altarpiece commissions for St Peter’s from prominent artists, such as Pietro da Cortona and the French Baroque painter, Poussin.

Barberini bought several paintings by Poussin for himself during the artist’s early years living in Rome.

In 1625 he had acquired the former Sforza palace and, after buying further land, he engaged the architect, Carlo Maderno, to transform it into a much larger and grander building, which eventually became Palazzo Barberini.

Francesco Barberini died in Rome in 1679 at the age of 82.

The Palazzo alla Giornata on the Arno embankment is one of the main buildings of the University of Pisa
The Palazzo alla Giornata on the Arno embankment is
one of the main buildings of the University of Pisa
Travel tip:

The University of Pisa, where Galileo taught and Francesco Barberini studied, was founded in 1343 making it the 10th oldest in Italy and it houses Europe’s oldest academic botanical garden. The main University buildings are in and around Lungarno Antonio Pacinotti, overlooking the River Arno, a short walk from the city’s famous Leaning Tower.

The Palazzo Barberini was Barberini's home in the centre of Rome, just off Piazza Barberini
The Palazzo Barberini was Barberini's home in the
centre of Rome, just off Piazza Barberini
Travel tip:

Palazzo Barberini is just off Piazza Barberini in the centre of Rome. It was completed in 1633 as a home for Francesco Barberini and was the work of three great architects, Carlo Maderno, Francesco Borromini and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The palace now houses part of the collection of Italy’s National Gallery of Ancient Art.

More reading:

Galileo Galilei convicted of heresy

How Carlo Maderno created the facade of St Peter's  

Pope Innocent X and revenge for Castro

Also on this day:

1943: Mussolini proclaims the puppet republic of Salò

1956: The birth of World Cup hero Paolo Rossi


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7 February 2018

Amedeo Guillet – army officer

Superb horseman helped keep the British at bay


Amedeo Guillet, pictured in his military dress uniform, was a brilliant horseman
Amedeo Guillet, pictured in his military dress
uniform, was a brilliant horseman

Amedeo Guillet, the last man to lead a cavalry charge against the British Army, was born on this day in 1909 in Piacenza.

His daring actions in Eritrea in 1941 were remembered by some British soldiers as ‘the most frightening and extraordinary’ episode of the Second World War.

It had seemed as though the British invasion of Mussolini’s East African empire was going like clockwork. But at daybreak on January 21, 250 horsemen erupted through the morning mist at Keru, galloping straight towards British headquarters and the artillery of the Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry.

Red Italian grenades that looked like cricket balls exploded among the defenders and the guns that had been pointing towards Italian fortifications had to be quickly turned to face a new enemy.

The horsemen later disappeared into the network of wadis - ravines - that crisscrossed the Sudan-Eritrean lowlands.

Guillet’s actions at Keru helped the Italian army regroup and go on to launch their best actions in the entire war. Guillet was to live on until the age of 101 and become one of the most decorated people in Italian history.

Guillet was born into a Savoyard-Piedmontese family, who were minor aristocracy that had, for generations, served the Dukes of Savoy and later the Kings of Italy.

Guillet in action on the battlefield in 1940
Guillet in action on the battlefield in 1940
He spent most of his childhood in the south and said he remembered the Austrian biplane bombing of Bari during the First World War. He followed family tradition by joining the army and, after attending the military academy at Modena, went into the cavalry.

Guillet excelled as a horseman and was selected for the Italian eventing team to go to the Berlin Olympics in 1936. But Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia interrupted his career as a competition rider.

He had himself transferred to a cavalry division and fought repeated actions with them. He witnessed the aerial gas attacks on Emperor Haile Selassie’s lightly-armed warriors, which appalled the world.

In Guillet’s opinion, gas was largely ineffectual against an enemy that could flee. He fought with horse, sword and pistol. He suffered a painful wound to his left hand and was later decorated for his actions.

He was flattered to be chosen by General Luigi Frusci as an aide de camp, in the division sent to support Franco in the Spanish Civil War, where he suffered shrapnel wounds, but helped to capture three Russian armoured cars and crews.

Guillet disapproved of  the pro- Nazi alliance and anti-semitism
Guillet disapproved of  the pro-
Nazi alliance and anti-semitism
But he disapproved of the pro-Nazi alliance and the anti-Semitic race laws adopted by Italy and asked for a posting to East Africa, where a family friend, Amedeo Duke of Aosta, had been appointed viceroy.

Mussolini’s decision to enter the war on the side of Germany in 1940 cut off Italian East Africa, which was surrounded by the territories of its enemies. Aosta gave Guillet command of 2,500 men, both cavalry and infantry. With almost no armour, Guillet’s horsemen were used to delay the British advance.

His actions at Keru and in subsequent battles won time for the Italian army, but eventually the British broke through. Most of the Italian army surrendered but Guillet refused to do so.

Aosta ordered his men to fight on to keep as many British soldiers as possible in East Africa.

For nine months Guillet launched a series of guerrilla actions against British troops with his mistress, Khadija, an Ethiopian Muslim, at his side. He believed he would never see Italy, or the woman he had planned to marry there, ever again.

Two British intelligence officers pursued him. One of them, Major Max Harrari, would later become an art dealer and one of his close friends. But Guillet managed to escape across the sea to neutral Yemen where he became a friend of the ruler Imam Ahmed. He sneaked back to Eritrea in 1943 in disguise, from where he returned to Italy on the Red Cross ship, Giulio Cesare.

He married his Neapolitan cousin, Beatrice Gandolfo, in 1944 and spent the rest of the war as an intelligence officer.

At the end of the war, after the decision to abolish the monarchy in Italy, Guillet told Umberto II he intended to leave the country for good, but the deposed King asked him to keep serving Italy, whatever sort of Government was installed.

Despite being wounded many times, Guillet not only survived his wartime experiences but lived to be 101 years old
Despite being wounded many times, Guillet not only survived
his wartime experiences but lived to be 101 years old
Guillet joined the diplomatic service and because his Arabic was fluent he served in the Middle East. He was later ambassador in Jordan, Morocco and India.

In 1975 he retired and went live in County Meath in Ireland to enjoy the fox hunting.

According to his biographer, Sebastian O’Kelly, Guillet was ‘a kind, generous man who thought himself lucky to have survived many bullet and grenade wounds, sword injuries and bone fractures.’ Guillet’s wife, Beatrice, died in 1990.

In 2000, Guillet was presented with the Knight Grand Cross of the Military Order of Italy, the highest military decoration, by President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.

Guillet’s life story was the subject of a film made by Elisabetta Castana for the national TV channel RAI in 2007.

In 2009 he was still well enough to be able to celebrate his 100th birthday at the army officers’ club in Palazzo Barberini in Rome.

When Guillet died in June 2010 in Rome he was widely respected as one of the last men to have commanded cavalry in a war.

One of Francesco Mochi's statues in Piacenza
One of Francesco Mochi's
 statues in Piacenza
Travel tip:

Piacenza, where Guillet was born, is a city in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. The main square in Piacenza is named Piazza Cavalli because of its two bronze equestrian monuments featuring Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma and his son Ranuccio I Farnese, Duke of Parma, who succeeded him. The statues are masterpieces by the sculptor Francesco Mochi.

The Palazzo Barberini in Rome
The Palazzo Barberini in Rome
Travel tip:

Palazzo Barberini, where Guillet celebrated his 100th birthday, is just off Piazza Barberini in the centre of Rome. The palace was completed in 1633 for Pope Urban VIII to the design of three great architects, Carlo Maderno, Francesco Borromini and Gian Lorenzo Bernini.


30 January 2017

Carlo Maderno - architect

Facade of St Peter's among most notable works


The facade of St Peter's Basilica in Rome is one of Carlo Maderno's most significant architectural works
The facade of St Peter's Basilica in Rome is one of
Carlo Maderno's most significant architectural works
The architect Carlo Maderno, who has been described as one of the fathers of Italian Baroque architecture, died on this day in 1629 in Rome.

His most important works included the facades of St Peter’s Basilica and the other Roman churches of Santa Susanna and Sant’ Andrea della Valle.

Although most of Maderno's work was in remodelling existing structures, he had a profound influence on the appearance of Rome, where his designs also contributed to the Palazzo Quirinale, the Palazzo Barberini and the papal palace at Castel Gandolfo. 

One building designed and completed under Maderno's full control was the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria in the Sallustiano district.

Carlo Maderno was born in Capolago on the shore of Lake Lugano
Carlo Maderno was born in Capolago
on the shore of Lake Lugano
Maderno was born in 1556 in the village of Capolago, on the southern shore of Lake Lugano in what is now the Ticino canton of Switzerland, part of the finger of Italy's northern neighbouring country that extends between the Italian lakes Como and Maggiore.

Marble was quarried in the mountains around Capolago and as well as a talent for sculpture he had experience as a marble cutter when he moved with four of his brothers to Rome in 1588 to work with his uncle, Domenico Fontana.

Fontana also made his architectural mark in the city, where he worked on the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and the nearby Palazzo Montalto.  He also erected the 327-ton Egyptian obelisk at the centre of St Peter's Square as well as the obelisks in Piazza del Popolo, Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore, and Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano.

Maderno's first commission in his own right, in 1596, was to build a facade for the church of Santa Susanna at the Baths of Diocletian, located on the Quirinal Hill.

Completed in 1603, Maderno's work on Santa Susanna has earned praise from modern architectural critics and at the time won him the admiration of Pope Paul V, who appointed him as the architect of St Peters, a position previously held by Domenico Fontana.

The facade of St Peter's has attracted criticism because it obscures the view of Michelangelo's dome from the piazza
The facade of St Peter's has attracted criticism because it
obscures the view of Michelangelo's dome from the piazza
Extensive changes to St Peter's Basilica were demanded of Maderno by Paul V, both inside and out. Principally, he was required to modify Michelangelo's plans by adding an extended nave and a palatial facade.

His work on the inside, which changed the layout from Michelangelo's Greek cross to the present Latin cross, is generally seen as a seamless expansion but the facade has been condemned by some critics as a disaster.

Their main complaint is that the massive classical structure, with its lower two levels in brown stone and the top level in white marble, severely limits the view of Michelangelo's magnificent dome, despite it being the tallest in the world, particularly for the crowds looking up from the piazza.  The eight unevenly spaced columns have also divided opinions, praised in some quarters as a forceful statement, criticised in others as incongruous.

Happily, more blame was attached to an over-ambitious and architecturally ignorant pope than to Maderno himself.  There is an acceptance that he had much less freedom over the design than in his other projects.

The Palazzo Barberini was designed by Maderno on  behalf of the the family of Pope Urban VIII
The Palazzo Barberini was designed by Maderno on
behalf of the the family of Pope Urban VIII
Maderno's influence is seen too in the churches of Gesù e Maria, San Giacomo degli Incurabili, Santa Lucia in Selci and San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, where he is buried.

The Palazzo Barberini, which Maderno designed for the family of Pope Urban VIII, was completed by Francesco Borromini and Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Travel tip:

From conception to completion, St Peter's Basilica took more than 150 years to build.  Suggested by Pope Nicholas V in about 1450, at which time the original St Peter's was near collapse, it was not finished until 1615.  Although the principal design input from the laying of the first stone in 1506 came from Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Maderno and Bernini, contributions were also made by Giuliano da Sangallo, Fra Giocondo, Raphael and Antonio da Sangallo.  Michelangelo became involved with reluctance, ironically, after Pope Paul III's first choice as architect, Giulio Romano, died before he could take up the post and second choice Jacopo Sansovino refused to leave Venice.

Michelangelo's dome dominates the Rome skyline
Michelangelo's dome dominates the Rome skyline
Travel tip:

For all that the view from close quarters may have been impaired, Michelan- gelo's dome is one of the dominant features of the Rome skyline.  Situated in the Vatican City next to the Tiber river, St Peter's is the largest Christian church in the world, covering 5.7 acres with a capacity to accommodate 60,000 people, with room for a further 400,000 in the square outside.  The dome itself rises to a height of 136.57 metres (448.1 feet) from the floor of the basilica to the top of the external cross.  The Egyptian obelisk in the square, which rises to 40m (132 ft), is said to have been erected at or near the spot in which St Peter was allegedly crucified by the Romans in 64 AD.

More reading:


Why Michelangelo was called 'the greatest artist of all time'

How Gian Lorenzo Bernini's spectacular fountains adorn Rome

The consecration of St Peter's Basilica

Also on this day:

1935: The birth of movie actress Elsa Martinelli

(Picture credits: Main picture of St Peter's by Jean-Pol Grandmont; Palazzo Berberini by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra; Rome skyline by Daryl_Mitchell; all via Wikimedia Commons)


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