Francesco Borromini


Renowned Italian-born architect Francesco Borromini was the most daring and original architect to exist during the Roman Baroque period , and his style is the embodiment of Baroque extravagance . His works managed to influence all of Europe and South America.  Borromini was the representative of the most imaginative and idiosyncratic side that Baroque architecture had; managed to stay much closer to the goals and ideals of ancient Rome, both in sculpture and architecture , and his architectural works are considered as a series of workssober and classic.


Personal information

  • When was he born:  09/25/1599
  • Where he was born:  Bissone, Switzerland
  • When he died:  08/02/1667
  • Where he died:  Rome, Italy

Who was Francesco Borromini?

He was an architect of Italian and Swiss origin , who was considered one of the main exponents that existed during the Roman Baroque period whose works were completely original and unprecedented.


Biography of Francesco Borromini

Francesco Castelli, better known in the artistic world as Francesco Borromini , was born on September 25, 1599 in Bissone , on Lake Lugano . As a child, Milan was sent to learn to be a bricklayer , and it was as a bricklayer that he went to Rome , from 1621. He probably started as an ordinary bricklayer in Saint Peter’s, but was soon found by Maderno , the main architect of Saint Peter’s. and worked with him as an ornamentist.


In the 1630s, Francesco Borromini began receiving independent commissions for his work, and his fame grew rapidly. In 1632 he began to work on the Palazzo Spada . Perhaps one of the most important works he did was Borromini’s work on S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane , begun in 1634. This small church is one of the most important monuments of the Baroque style in Rome . Borromini’s next great work was the Oratory of S. Filippo Neri , which he began in 1637 for the Congregation of the Oratory.

Between the years of 1642 and 1650 he made his most complex work in its conception, the church of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza . In 1653 he directed the works of the church of Sant’Agnese ; When Pope Innocent X died, construction stopped and Borromini’s adversaries prevailed and, in 1657, he was fired from the work.

In 1667 he fell ill, due to fever and insomnia, on the first of August in the afternoon he wrote his will , then he went to bed but could not sleep, which is why he asked his servant for a light. The servant followed the doctor’s orders and did not give him the light, so Francesco Borromini got angry and in a crisis of anger, he wounded himself with his sword , dying the next day.


The architectural work of Francesco Borromini always has as its main foundation simple geometric elements that include geometric figures such as triangles and circles , whose spatial manipulation generates cylinders and prisms , thus giving rise to a very personal architecture.

It is important to mention that the circles and triangles that the author used were related to the Christian religion . The equilateral triangle that we observe in his works is the symbol that was used to represent the Holy Trinity since the three angles represent the Father , the Son and the Holy Spirit . They were generally used to represent the infinite , the eternity of God, the alpha and omega , by means of the circle.

It was also greatly influenced by nature , which saw it as the best way to represent the concept of divinity . Its geometric elements are so simple that they form the basis for the development of its religious buildings, whose symbols are intended to express that idea of perfection and interpretation of Nature as the image of God. He was an architect who was in charge of giving great importance to the architectural space.

He organized the geometric layout on alternate points of the Star of David, also placing three different circles at the outer vertices and another three in the center of the sides of the triangles to generate the shape of the plant of the chapel. For the exterior, Borromini places six concentric and equal circles that define the exterior volume of the buildings.

Francesco Borromini Characteristics

The main characteristics of Francesco Borromini are the following:

  • His projects conform to strict laws of symmetry and proportions .
  • Its facades, higher than the churches, have an undulation that was the archetype of the Baroque churches of Rome.
  • I use a series of undulating and concave-convex walls .
  • His works had great dynamism and movement .
  • It is characterized by the excess of ornaments in churches and facades in order to make an impression .


The perspective that Borromini used was mathematical conic and he did it between 1652 and 1653 on behalf of Cardinal Bernardino Spada, who had bought a palace in 1632. This type of perspective was known as trompe l’oeil (trap-before-eye) , and it was a pictorial technique that played with perspective and hyperrealism to deceive the observer through effects and volumes that did not really exist. Francesco Borromini managed to create this effect by strictly following optical laws , and for that reason he had the help of a mathematician.


Some of the recognitions that have been made to the painter are:

  • Regarding the recognitions, one of the most important was made in the Vatican Museum on December 1, 2017 and lasted until the end of March 2018. The activities were held in the Vatican, the Academy of San Luca , La Sapienza University and the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome .

Works by Francesco Borromini

Among his most outstanding works we can mention the following:

  • Palazzo Barberini , Rome.
  • Baldachin of Saint Peter, Vatican City. He provided technical advice to his later antagonist, Gian Lorenzo Bernini .6
  • Oratory of San Felipe Neri, Rome.
  • San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane , Rome.
  • Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza , Rome.
  • College of Propaganda Fide, Rome.
  • St. John Lateran (reconstruction), Rome.
  • Saint Agnes in Agony , Rome.


The importance of Francesco Borromini lies in the fact that he laid the foundations for modern architecture through his wavy walls with curved surfaces that managed to give flexibility to the stone and transformed the stone wall into a type of elastic material.

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