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52. Borromini's genius and Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza

Updated: Mar 21, 2020

By - Giulio D'Ercole

How much history, art, architecture and beauty can one find walking downtown Rome, let's say from Castel Sant'Angelo to Pantheon, and how many incredible churches can you visit, each one with its own peculiarities? Well, amongst all churches, there is one that is absolutely unique. I am talking about the church of Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza, designed by Francesco Borromini, between 1642 and 1660. The church, located at the rear of a courtyard on Corso del Rinascimento is a masterpiece of the Roman Baroque architecture, and what makes it unique is the design of its dome: the lantern of Sant'Ivo is topped with a spiral shape, surmounted by a Cross, an absolutely unprecedented concept in the Italian architecture until that time. As it appears in the photo below, the church rises at the end of a courtyard, known as the courtyard of Giacomo della Porta. The façade is concave, molding the church into the courtyard as if completing it rather than disrupting it. The façade itself looks like a continuation of the courtyard arches except with the openings filled in with small windows, a door, and a larger glass window above the door.

For us, engaged in the fun of a learning experience through a photography walking workshop, this courtyard offers a terrific opportunity to explore different shots, focusing either on the church at the end of the courtyard, or on the cobblestones leading to it. A good shot is not photographing a beautiful object (or person), but portraying it in a new, personal and possibly creative way.... adding beauty to beauty.

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