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Ivo alla Sapienza and Borromini's Symbolic Language

Author(s): John Beldon Scott
Source: Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 41, No. 4 (Dec., 1982), pp. 294-
Published by: University of California Press on behalf of the Society of Architectural Historians
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S. Ivo alla Sapienzaand Borromini'sSymbolicLanguage

JOHN BELDON SCOTT University of Iowa

The symbolic content of Borromini's S. Ivo alla Sapienza is ex- incomprehensible conceits. A re-evaluation of S. Ivo, based on
amined in the light of documents of the period, particularly the the documents of the period, will serve not only to clarify the
construction documents in the Archivio di Stato in Rome. This meaning of the architectural and decorative symbolism of the
material makes a significant contribution toward resolving ques- chapel but will also allow a broad reassessmentof the nature of
tions related to iconographic elements in the groundplan, spiral Borromini's symbolic language.
tower, and interior stucco decoration of the chapel. The deter- Borromini had not yet finished his work as Bernini's assistant
mining factors for the symbolic meaning of the imagery of S. Ivo at Palazzo Barberiniwhen in I632, through the intervention of
are shown to be the iconography of the saint, the ceremonial Cardinal Francesco Barberini,he was appointed architect of the
functions of the chapel, and the changing patronage of three Roman Archiginnasio, the chief secular institution of learning in
popes. S. Ivo serves as a case study for Borromini's introduction the city.' Urban VIII was especially interested in the welfare of
of symbolic elements into the fabric and decoration of his works, the Archiginnasio, later known as the University,which had been
demonstrating that the nature of that imagery-seen in its I7th- founded by Boniface VIII (1294-1303) and given its permanent
century context-is not esoteric and that our view of Borromini seat by Leo X (I5 13-I 52I).2 This edifice had remained without
as a speculative thinker in architectureis exaggerated and anach- a proper chapel or library facility.3Borromini'stask was to con-

Borromini at the Sapienza Thisstudyis a revisedandexpandedversionof materialfirstpresentedin

my dissertation,"Allegoriesof DivineWisdomin ItalianBaroqueArt,"
BORROMINI'S CHURCH of S. Ivo is widely viewed as an RutgersUniversity,1982. The middlesectionon the symbolismof the
towerof S. Ivowas deliveredat theCollegeArtAssociationConvention
archetypal work of Roman High Baroque architecture. Our ap- in SanFrancisco,I98 . I wouldliketo thankthe followingindividuals
preciation of this masterpiece, nevertheless,has been dimmed by who read the draftsand in other ways contributedto the completed
uncertainty about the meaning of the symbolic elements the ar- study:ProfessorsOlga Berendsen,IrvingLavin,VirginiaBush,Sarah
chitect incorporated into the structure and ornament of the Wilk,JosephConnors,andPatriciaLeighten,andJosephandAlessandra
chapel. Considerable scholarly controversy has arisen over the i. Archivio di Stato di Roma, Universita 198, fasc. 123, fol. iv; O.
authenticity of the bee in the groundplan and the source and Pollak, Die Kunsttdtigkeit unter Urban VIII, 2 vols., Vienna, 1928, I,
H. Thelen, FrancescoBorromini, die Handzeichnungen,Graz,
meaning of the spiral lantern tower above the dome. The im- I6o-I6I;
I967, I, 9.
agery of S. Ivo, however, is less complex than is usually thought. 2. For the historyof the Archiginnasiosee G. Carafa,De gymnasio
Many of the problematic aspects encountered in the critical lit- romano et de eius professoribus, 2 vols., Rome, 1751; F. M. Renazzi,
erature have resulted from a lack of understanding of the theo- Storia dell'universitadegli studi di Roma...., 4 vols., Rome, I803-I8o6;
G. MoroniRomano,Dizionariodi erudizionestorico-ecclesiastica,
logical nature of wisdom as perceived in the I7th century and
vols., Venice, 1840-1861, LXXXIV, 282-323, LXXXV,3-208; and N.
from a failure to take into account the particulariconography of
Spano, L'Universita di Roma, Rome, 1935.
S. Ivo the saint. The iconographic interests of both the individual 3. The historyof the buildingup to the timeof Borromini'sappoint-
and the corporate patrons were also of much greater significance menthas beenexaminedby H. Thelen,"DerPalazzoalla Sapienzain
Rom," Miscellanea Bibliothecae Hertzianae, Munich, I96I, 285-307.
than has been supposed. Moreover, the important ceremonial Also see P. Tomei,"Gliarchitettidel PalazzodellaSapienza,"Palladio,
functions the chapel was built to house have been completely v, 1941, 270-28z. For the subsequent history of the building see E. Re,
ignored. But perhaps the paramount contributing element in the di Statodi Roma:
"Materialiperla storiadellanuovasededell'Archivio
La 'Sapienza,'" Archivi d'ltalia, iv, 1937, 198-205; E. Re, "Restauri
confusion surrounding the meaning of S. Ivo is the romantic
alla Sapienza," Roma, xII, I943, 76-78; and A. Lodolini, "Ob sapien-
conception of the architect as a neurotic personality who de- tiae gloriam et patrocinium: cinque secoli di vicende edilizie alla Sapi-
lighted in exotic prototypes in order to express curious if not enza," Capitolium, xxvIII, 1953, I93-200.


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-.. -
. ,
*w^ I-
_- !
Fig. z. Andrea Sacchi, Divine Wisdom, Palazzo Barberini,Rome,
I629-I63I. Detail of ceiling fresco (G. F. N.).
Fig. i. Francesco Borromini, S. Ivo alla Sapienza, Rome, 1643-1660
(G. F. N.).

manuscriptin the BarberiniArchives states that the subjectof the

struct a chapel behind the hemicycle of the cortile built by Gia- fresco is "appropriate for the majestic edifice of the Barberini
como della Porta.4 Construction did not actually begin until family in order that it be understood that since that happy family
January i643, and it continued under three successive popes- was born and elected to rule the Church in the place of God it
Urban VIII, Innocent X, and Alexander VII-until the dedica- governs with Divine Wisdom, equally loved and revered."7The
tion in I66o (Fig. i).5 association between Divine Wisdom and the Barberiniis visually
Since he was working at Palazzo Barberiniwhen Andrea Sac- confirmedin the fresco by the presenceof bees (the familyheraldic
chi decorated the ceiling of one of the reception rooms (I629- device) on the throne back, the Barberini sun impresa on the
1631) with the enthroned image of Divine Wisdom (Fig. z), breast of Divine Wisdom, and the laurel in the stucco frieze
Borrominiwas undoubtedly familiarwith both the iconographic below the cornice.8
significance of the theme and its relevance to the social preten- The papal commission at the Archiginnasio must have ap-
sions and political aspirationsof the Barberini.6A contemporary peared as a providential opportunity to give architecturalform
to a concept so flattering to the pope's family. The theme was
4. DellaPorta'soriginaldesignforthechapelandtheroleit playedin
"settingthestage"forBorromini's chapelhasbeendiscussedbyJ. Was- 7. "Convenivatal Pitturaal maestosoedefitiodellaCasaBarberina,
serman,"GiacomodellaPorta'sChurchfor the Sapienzain Romeand acci6 che s'intendesseche, si come si felicefameglia,e nataet elettain
Other Matters Relating to the Palace," Art Bulletin, XLVI,1964, 50I- luogo d'Iddio,per li primigovernidellaChiesa,cosi, con divinaSapi-
5Io. enza,parimentiamatae riverita,la governa."Thisdocumentwas pub-
5. The firstpaymentsdate from December1642 and work on the lishedby G. IncisadellaRocchetta,"Notizieineditesu AndreaSacchi,"
foundationwas begunin Januaryof the followingyear.Pollak,I, 6 1- L'Arte, xxvII, I924, 64. It is likely to date between 1631, the year the
162, and M. Del Piazzo,Ragguagliborrominiani,Rome, I968, I32- frescowas completed,and 1642, the publicationdate of the compre-
133. Thebuildinghistoryof thechapelstillawaitsdetailedanalysis. hensivesemi-officialdescriptionof the palace:H. Tetius,Aedes bar-
6. Forthe iconographyof the Sacchifrescoand for additionalbibli- berinae ad Quirinalem, Rome, 1642.
ographyseeJ. B. Scott,"Allegories
of DivineWisdomin ItalianBaroque 8. These impreseare collectedand explainedin G. Ferro,Teatro
Art," Dissertation, Rutgers University, I982, 8-56. d'imprese, Venice, 1623, 72-77, 650-65z.

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296 JSAH, XLI:4, DECEMBER 1982

,.f .ea . v9,:-.

(j. < ?A-
SA?IENT'tAALrr'cwtA Si1X3vWY
Ec Ottr Comrx -A* iiR

i,. - t .,
i'. ' 1: : ?

'S - , 7H

- fiI^ i:~?i':
" -: i* Fig.
Fig. 3. Borromini, S. Ivo.
3 Borromini, Detail of
;/ *
ir ;;!0groundplan drawing, ca. 1642,
: : : Archivio di Stato di Roma (author).

suggested by the very name of the institution, which as early as erbs (9:I-z) has been carefully drawn in block letters: SAPI-
the mid-I6th century was commonly known as La Sapienza.9 ENTIA AEDIFICAVITSIBI DOMUM / EXCEDIT COLUM-
This popular designation was given official sanction by the ad- NAS SEPTUM / PROPOSUIT MENSAM SUAM ("Wisdom
monitory inscription Sixtus V had placed over the main entrance hath built herself a house, / she hath hewn her out seven pillars. /
to the cortile begun by Pirro Ligorio: SIXTUSV. PONT. MAX. She hath set forth her table"). Borromini has pencilled in the
INITIUM SAPIENTIAE EST TIMOR DOMINI.10 As they intended location of each of the three inscriptions: "on the frieze
passed through that portal, those who came to study at the of the door," "on the frieze of the columns," and "on the pedes-
Sapienza were thereby reminded of the elementary Christian tal of the statue." In the apse, behind the altar, the architect has
truth that the fear of the Lord, i.e. the practice of religion, is the indicated the seven columns of an exedra, in accordancewith the
beginning of wisdom. Borrominiintended to continue this theme biblical text. In the center of the chapel groundplan the architect
in the new Archiginnasio chapel, which was originally to be has drawn a sun, recalling the biblical passage "she [Widom] is
dedicated to Divine Wisdom. the brightness of eternal light... she is more beautiful than the
The earliest design for S. Ivo, as the chapel was ultimately sun" (Wisdom 7:26, 29). Like Sacchi's figure of Divine Wisdom
dedicated,11is a presentation drawing of the groundplan, dating this attributealso refersto the Barberini.Lest this message escape
prior to mid-i64z, now in the Archivio di Stato in Rome (Fig. the viewer the sun is surroundedwith bees, which, like the bees
3).12 In the upper left corner the following quotation from Prov- on the throne in the Palazzo Barberinifresco, establish the asso-
ciation between the Barberiniand Divine Wisdom.
This interpretation is confirmed by the marble plaque on the
9. Spano, 23. south facade of the Sapienza, which served as precedent for
io. Del Piazzo, 280-281. The present plaque reads simply: INITIUM Borromini's symbolic device. The plaque commemorates Urban
VIII's patronage of part of the Sapienza prior to Borromini's
Subsequent biblical references are taken from the Douay-Rheims
translation of the Vulgate. involvement with the building, and was already in place in 1630
i. The dedication ceremony took place on 13 November 660. Av- (Fig. 4).13Here the sun is surroundedby Barberinilaurel, and, as
viso of 13 November i660, Vatican Library,Vat. Lat. 8529, published old prints and the repairsin the wall above the impresashow, the
by E. Rossi, "Roma ignorata," Roma, xvII, 1939, 321. Until this time
the construction documents generally refer to the chapel as the "Cap- Barberini coat-of-arms was originally located above it. The in-
pella della Sapienza"or the "Chiesa dello Studio." For the history of the scription gives the meaning of the image: URBAN VIII / PONT.
chapel proper and some of the functions held in it see N. Ratti, Notizie
della chiesa interna dell'archiginnasio romano, Rome, I833. Pollak, i,
159-I62, has published a few documents related to S. Ivo and to the
original Archiginnasio chapel founded by Leo X. For this earlier chapel,
located on the ground floor at the western end of the north wing of the I3. P. Poulsson, "The Iconography of Francesco Borromini's Church
Sapienza, see Wasserman, 502. of S. Ivo alla Sapienza in Rome," Thesis, University of Oslo, Norway,
iz. Archivio di Stato di Roma, Universita 198, fasc. 122; Del Piazzo, 1976, I4-16. For the contract for the plaque see Archivio di Stato di
152-I53. Roma, Universita i , fol. Io.

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Fig. 4. Impresaof Urban VIII and InscriptionPlaque. Sapienza, south Fig. 5. Borromini, S. Ivo. Detail of dome and lantern tower from cortile
facade, ca. I630 (author). (author).


CINIUM ("Urban VIII, Pont. Opt. Max., for the Glory and Dilctio DciHonorabilisSapienza.
Nei'EdeAlkirkoaltc . r.<
.... . .
Del Signo Giouanni:ZarattinoCaftcllii
Patronageof Wisdom"). On both the plaque and the drawing the
sun and bees symbolize Divine Wisdom and Barberinipatronage ir^ Mii ... -'j7<
v. .
of La Sapienza. m .-' *, 1..**.ril
Among the last elements to be added to the chapel, possibly in
I659 or even I66o, were two relief sculptures above the front
window of the drum. These represent a shield with the dove of
the Holy Spirit and, in the window soffit, the Lamb of God
resting on the Book of Wisdom from which dangle seven seals
(Fig. 5). Hans Ost has demonstrated that these two images are
the attributes of Divine Wisdom as conceived in Ripa's Icono-
logia, the most common iconographic handbook used by artists
in the I7th century (Fig. 6).14 Borromini has simply dispensed
with the figure and retained only the attributes.
Each of the numerous scholars who have written iconographic
analyses of the chapel has recognized that S. Ivo was intended as
Fig. 6. Ripa, Divine Wisdom. Nova iconologia, Padua, I618, 458

14. C. Ripa, Nova iconologia, Padua, I618, 457-60. H. Ost, "Borro-

minis r6mische UniversitatskircheS. Ivo alla Sapienza," Zeitschrift fiir
Kunstgeschichte,xxx, 967, 24-126.

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298 JSAH, XLI:4, DECEMBER 1982

The Groundplan

The chief controversy concerning the groundplan is the relia-

bility of Sebastiano Giannini's statement that Borromini con-
ceived of the interior groundplan of the chapel as a referenceto
the Barberini bee, as depicted in plate X of the Opera (Fig. 7).
This notion has met with considerableskepticism.16 Yet, already
in 1661 FrancescoMacedo, professorof theology at the Archigin-
nasio, referredto the chapel as "unusual architecture,imitating
the shape of a flying bee, which was a symbol of the ancients."17
Moreover, Carlo Cartari (I6I4-i697),18 a key member of the
governing body of the Sapienza (the College of Consistorial Ad-
vocates) throughout the period of construction, recorded that
the groundplan of the chapel was "as if in the form of a bee."19
The guidebook of Borromini's friend Fioravante Martinelli,
emended by the architect,notes that the chapel "is founded upon
the papal impresaof the Barberinibee, which, with its four wings
open, forms with its head and body a hexagonal figure...."20
Borrominihimself therebysanctioned the bee in the groundplan.
Finally, there is the evidence of the aforementioned plate X of
the Opera (Fig. 7). This engraving closely reflects the definitive
form of the plan arrivedat toward the middle of 1642. Here the
colonnaded exedra has been disposed of and the altar moved
farther back into the apse. An extraordinary feature of the en-
graving is the superimposition onto the floorplan of the archi-
tect's early conception for the dome decoration. The hexagonal
windows and enframements belong to the dome decoration
Fig. 7. S. Giannini, S. Ivo. Groundplan. Opera del caval. Francesco while the bee located in the center of the engravingis intended as
Boromino ..., Rome, 1720, pl. X (author).

an allegory of wisdom.15 They differ widely, however, with re- 1974, 73-79; P. Poulsson, "The Iconography of Francesco Borromini's
Church of S. Ivo alla Sapienza in Rome," Thesis, University of Oslo,
gard to the readingof the symbolic elements and the exact nature
of the wisdom the artist and patrons sought to express in the Norway, I976; L. Steinberg, Borromini's San Carlo alle Quattro Fon-
tane, New York, 1977, 374-396; M. Malmanger, "Form as Ideology:
architecturalform and decoration of the building. Herein lies the The Spire of Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza," Acta, Institutum Romanum Nor-
crux of the debate surroundingthe symbolic meaning of S. Ivo: vegiae, vIII, 1978, 237-249. In his recent monograph on Borromini
There are three points of focus: the groundplan, the lantern Anthony Blunt has synthesized many of the above interpretations into
one: A. Blunt, Borromini, London, 1979, II-I2z8.
tower, and the interior stucco decoration. i6. See, for example, the comments in Steinberg, 374-375.
I7. "Architectura mirabili, Apis volantis (gentile id fuit symbolum)
speciem imitante." F. Macedo, Archigymnasi romanae sapientiae ...,
I5. The most important studies, listed in chronological order, are: P. Rome, i66I, 12. For Macedo see Carafa, II, 476-477.
Portoghesi, "Borromini decoratore," Bollettino d'Arte, XL, 1955, 28- 18. Cartari was also Papal Archivist and, in 1647, became deacon of
29, Borromini nella cultura europea, Rome, 1964,49-52, 180-84, and the College of ConsistorialAdvocates, about which he wrote a biograph-
Borromini, architettura come linguaggio, Milan, I967, I49-I58; H. ical history: C. Cartari, Advocatorum sacri consistorii syllabum . . .,
Ost, "Borrominis r6mische Universitatskirche S. Ivo alla Sapienza," Rome, i656. Dizionario biografico degli Italiani, Rome, 1960-, xx,
Zeitschrift fur Kunstgeschichte, xxx, 1967, 101-142; E. Battisti, "II 783-786.
simbolismo in Borromini," in Studi sul Borromini, Rome, 1967, I, 23 1- I9. "Nella fabrica della Chiesa, che si principi6 in Tempo di Urbano
303; Marcello Fagiolo dell'Arco, "Sant'Ivo, 'Domus Sapientiae,'" in Ottavo, e percci6 e quasi in forma d'Api..." Archivio di Stato di Roma,
Studi sul Borromini, Rome, 1967, 151-165; P. du Prey, "Solomonic Universita I09, fol. i66. Cited by Poulsson, i8.
Symbolism in Borromini's Church of S. Ivo alla Sapienza," Zeitschrift 20. "Si fond6 nell'impresa ponteficia dell'Ape Barberini,la quale con
fir Kunstgeschichte,xxxi, 1968, 216-232; Maurizio Fagiolo dell'Arco, l'apertura delle quattro ali, e con la testa e corpo forma una figura
"Francesco Borromini" (critical review of recently published material), essagone...." F. Martinelli, "Roma ornata dall'architettura,pittura e
Storia dell'Arte, I-II, 1969, 200-205, "La Sapienza di Borromini: un scultura," Biblioteca Casanatense, Rome, ms. 4984, fol. 275r. This
progetto per il Palazzo dell'Universita," Storia dell'Arte, xxxvIII-XL, work has been published by C. D'Onofrio, Roma nel seicento, Florence,
1980, 343-35 ; W. Hauptman, "'Luceat Lux Vestra Coram Homini- 1969. For verification of Borromini's intervention with the manuscript
bus': A New Source for the Spire of Borromini's S. Ivo," JSAH, xxxIII, see Thelen, 1967, I, 99, n. I.

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theimagein thelanternvault.Thebeeestablishesboththeshape
of the interiorwall and the structuralsystemof the dome-the
fourwings,head,and abdomenconformingto the six lobesof
the plan,with the six radiatinglegscorresponding to the ribsof
the dome.The authenticityof the engraveddesignas a genuine
representation of the architect'sintentionsat an earlypoint in
the constructionis confirmedby the statementof Borromini's
nephewthat an engravingof the groundplanof S. Ivohad been
madeby DomenicoBarriere,basedon drawingsBorrominihad
givenhim.21The engravingof the groundplanwouldhavebeen
amongthe plates ultimatelyobtainedand publishedby Gian-
nini.22The pedigreeof the bee in the groundplanof S. Ivo is,
therefore,a longanddistinguished one.23
Nevertheless,in the groundplanin the Archiviodi Stato(Fig.
3)-the earliestof all thedrawings-the sunratherthanthe bee
is at thecenter.Unlikethebeein theengraving,however,thesun
with the six surrounding beesis not to be understoodas partof
theactualdecorationof thechapel.Neitherthewindowsnorany
otherpartof the domestructureis drawnon the floorplan.The
sun and beesin the Archiviodi Statodrawingdo not reflectthe
ornamentandiconographickeyforthe drawingitself-a draw-
ingto be presentedto thepatronsforapproval.
The geometryof the groundplan,too, has an importantsym-
bolicfunction.An hexagonalconfiguration becomesapparentif
we imaginelinesconnectingthe abdomensof the bees (Fig.8). Fig. 8. Borromini, S. Ivo. Detail of groundplan drawing with
superimposed hexagon (author).
Thisimaginaryhexagonechoesthoseof thesubsidiarychapelsat
the fourcornersof the building.PlateX of the Operaindicates
thatBorrominialso intendedto piercethe domewith six hexa- that bee cells are hexagonal and that Martinelli emphasized the
gonalwindows.Eventhe lanternwas to be six-sided.Recalling abstract geometric quality of the bee as "an hexagonal figure,"24
we realize that the abstract conception of the bee as a six-sided
shape must have been the genesis of the groundplan of S. Ivo.
21. Biblioteca Nazionale di Firenze, Codex Magliabecchianus, in. This is verified by the groundplan in the Archivio di Stato in
II.II0, fols, I7or-I7Iv. See F. Baldinucci, Notizie de'professori del which the impressions of erased lines indicate that the matrix of
disegno . . ., ed. F. Ranalli, Florence, 1847, vII, 114-120. This en- the groundplan is a regular hexagon, which Martinelli notes is
graving, along with many others made by Barriere at Borromini's re- "counted among the most perfect forms by the practitioners of
quest, was in nephew Bernardo'spossession at the time the manuscript
was written in I685. D. de Bernardi Ferrero, L'Opera di Francesco architecture."25It will be helpful to view the drawing with the
Borromini nella letteratura artistica e nelle incisioni dell'eta barocca, original lines of the hexagon redrawn (Fig. 8). Borromini erased
Turin, I967, 37, attributes plate X of S. Giannini, Opera del caval. the lines of the hexagon when he sought to transformthe design
Francesco Boromino..., Rome, 1720, to Barriereon stylistic grounds as
well. The differencein the renderingof the bee in the engraving from the from a working drawing into one suitable for presentation.
Borromini autograph bee in the Archivio di Stato groundplan drawing is Every other autograph drawing of the groundplan of S. Ivo in-
accounted for by the fact that Barriereoften re-drew Borromini's origi- cludes the lines of this principal hexagon.26They even appear in
nals. Moreover, in the engraving the wings of the insect are depicted
the floor tiling, as executed in I66z, where the six bays are
open, as though flying (Macedo's "apis volantis"), in order that the
various parts might correspond to the six lobes of the groundplan.
For the Borromini-Barrierepublication enterprise of I66o and its
relationship to Giannini's plates, see J. Connors, Borromini and the 24. Martinelli, fol. 275r.
Roman Oratory: Style and Society, Cambridge,Mass., I980, 266-269, 25. Ibid., fol. 275v.
285-288. 26. Albertina 499, 500, 500, I. 509. The widely held supposition that
22. About plate X Giannini says: "Contiene la pianta intiera di tutta the groundplan of S. Ivo consists of two superimposed equilateral tri-
la sopradetta chiesa secondo la prima idea, e disegno del detto Cavalier angles seems to be based on a plate from the Opera which shows a
Boromino." Opera, preface. second triangle superimposed over the single inverted one appearing in
23. Poulsson, I7-19, too, recognizes the bee symbolism with refer- the autograph drawings. This second triangle is an I8th-century ad-
ence to statements by Cartari,Macedo, and Martinelli. dition.

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300 JSAH, XLI:4, DECEMBER 1982

demarcated from the central space by lines of gray marble.27 The the groundplan of S. Ivo. Cartari tersely noted that the chapel
hexagon is not simply a fanciful overlay onto the abstract struc- had the form of a bee because "it was begun in the time of Urban
ture of the groundplan but is rather its geometric core.28 VIII." On one level this refers simply to Barberini patronage of
Borromini's use of heraldic symbolism also fulfilled a practical the chapel. But heraldry was taken seriously by both Borromini
function. The bee imagery not only served to acknowledge the and his patrons. An element from the coat-of-arms, such as the
Barberini but also to flatter them in a way that would help ini- Barberini bee, was considered to embody the moral qualities of
tiate and maintain their patronage of the chapel.29 Borromini the family and individual.31
must have been quite aware that his appointment as architect of An enormous body of sycophantic literature of an allegorical
the Sapienza did not mean that the construction of the chapel and pseudo-scientific nature published during the reign of Urban
was assured. Indeed, during the more than ten years that passed VIII has as its starting point the three Barberini bees and other
before work commenced, the architect had ample time to reflect personal imprese of the pope.32 The authors of these works, who
upon the fate of Giacomo della Porta's design for the chapel.30 In were called the "bees of Urban,"33 repeatedly asserted that the
this uncertain setting the groundplan in the Archivio di Stato bee and its products, honey and wax, were symbols of Divine
must be seen as a presentation drawing prepared as a proposal Wisdom.34 This literature was not without a scholarly founda-
for patronage. This accounts for the enticing sun and bee imag- tion, for no less an authority than Vergil in the fourth book of the
ery and the biblical inscriptions with their clear allusion to the Georgics had said, "some have taught that bees have received a
iconography of the pope and his nephews. share of the divine intelligence, and a draught of heavenly
Establishing the authenticity of the bee imagery is essential for ether."35 Macedo's statement that the bee was "a symbol of the
understanding the much-debated iconographic significance of ancients"36 must refer to Vergil's passage. Bee symbolism is also
sanctioned by a venerable Christian tradition. Among relevant
scriptural citations are Wisdom's own words from Ecclesiasticus:
27. See L. Benevolo, "I1 tema geometrico di S. Ivo alla Sapienza," "For my spirit is sweet above honey: and my inheritance above
Quaderni dell'Istituto di Storia dell'Architettura,III, 1953, figs. 22, 25,
and "I1problema dei pavimenti borrominiani in bianco e nero." Qua- honey and the honeycomb" (24:27). Ambrose's reference to the
derni dell'Istituto di Storia dell'Architettura,xIII, 1956, 9-I2.
28. Hexagons and other honeycomb-like configurations are exceed-
ingly common in Barberini buildings. A groundplan of an early project 3I. A. Cellonese, Specchio simbolico overo delle armi gentilitie,
for Palazzo Barberini, attributed to Pietro da Cortona, consists of a Naples, 1667, 46: "Li corpi dell'Armi sono Imprese Simboliche, cioe
network of octagons. Wittkower, 1973, 234-235. The design has also Imagine scolpite, o pur dipinte nelli Scudi: le quali altro mostrano alla
been attributed to Borromini. K. Noehles, "Pietro da Cortona," Ency- vista, & altro all'intelletto significano. E come che Simboli, alle virtudi
clopedia of World Art, London, 1966, xi, cols. 360-364. In a similar della Famiglia alludono."
vein Pietro Ferrerio's engraving of the palace groundplan indicates an 32. See, for example, the following works dedicated to various mem-
unusually prominent hexagonal cistern at the base of the square stair- bers of the Barberini family: I. Bracci, La occulta corrispondenza tra
case. P. Ferrerio, Palazzi di Roma de' piu celebri architetti . . . , Rome, l'arme, e'l cognome de'Barberini, Rome, I623-an etymological study
I655, pl. 8. An engraving of 163 1 commemorating the construction of demonstrating six reasons why bees were called "barbare" by the an-
the palace includes along with numerous curiosities of Barberiniiconog- cients; F. Cesi, "Apiarium," Rome, I625-a quasi-scientific work con-
raphy a groundplan of the building, not as it was built, but as it was sisting of a wealth of lore related to the origins, manners, physical parts,
ideally conceived by the author of the engraving, one Orazio Busini. The and history of the bee; M. Greuter, "Melissographia..." Rome, 1625-
geometric configuration superimposed over the plan consists of a circle, an engraving with a microscopic analysis of the three heraldic Barberini
triangle, and square all inscribed within a hexagon. To judge from the bees and various amputated bee parts; C. Giarda, Apis religiosa . . .
inscriptions, the harmonious proportions of the plan are based upon a Milan, 1625-the community of the beehive is seen as the image of the
Christological interpretation of Plato's Timaeus. Vatican Library, perfect religious society; F. da Belvedered'Iesi, Symboliche conclusioni,
Stamp. Barb. x. I. 3 I, fol. 25. For all that is known about Busini, and an Ancona, I628-ten engraved emblems with various Barberini imprese
illustration of the engraving, see P. Waddy, "Palazzo Barberini: Early and lengthy explanations; C. M. Monaldo, "Apiarium," Vatican Li-
Projects," Dissertation, New York University, 1973, 158-I65. In a brary, Barb. Lat. 2 I 3-numerous original drawings of bee emblems in
forthcoming study of the fresco decoration of Palazzo Barberini I will praise of the Barberini. Pastor hypothesized that this phenomenon-
fully analyze this engraving. The Casino Barberini at Palestrina (ca. which we might designate with the neologism "apimania"-began in
i650), by Francesco Contini, consists of an hexagonal superstructure 1628 with the publication of F. Bracciolini'sepic poem on the election of
resting on a triangularpodium. As in S. Ivo, a hexagon is at the core of an Urban VIII (L'Elettione di Urbano Papa VIII, Rome, 1628), since that
equilateral triangle. P. Portoghesi, Roma barocca, trans. B. L. La Penta, work had some bee images at the ends of the cantos. L. von Pastor, The
Cambridge, Mass., 1970, 278, fig. 463. See also Fagiolo-Carandini, II, History of the Popes, trans. E. Graf, 40 vols., London, 1923-53, xxIx,
fig. 88. These examples demonstrate that Borromini's bee-hexagon 429-430. This literary genre was parallel to the proliferation of bees in
groundplan at S. Ivo was not merely the caprice of a fantastical imagina- the visual arts. Gregorio Leti reported in 1667 that more than Io,ooo
tion but, on the contrary, belonged to a tradition established under painted and sculpted bees had been counted in Rome and the Papal
Barberinipatronage. States. G. Leti, IInepotismo di Roma, 2 vols., Amsterdam, 1667, I, 228.
29. Connors has perceptively pointed to Borromini's use of opulence 33. L. Allacci, Apes urbanae, sive de viris illustribus, Rome, 1633.
at S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane as a "lure" for aristocraticpatronage. J. 34. Belvedered'Iesi, i6-2o.
Connors, review of L. Steinberg, Borromini's S. Carlo alle Quattro Fon- 35. Publius Vergilius Maro, Georgics, trans. H. Rushton, in The Loeb
tane, in JSAH, xxxvIII, 1979, 285. Classical Library,London, I930, 219-227.
30. Wasserman, 501-5 0. 36. Macedo, 12.

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well-ordered society of the beehive37and the encomium to the

bee contained in the medieval Exultet text read at the blessing of
the Paschal candle38are also characteristicof this tradition. The
moral probity of the bee was therefore affirmednot only by the
ancients but also by the Church Fathersand the Scriptures.
The Barberini seem to have collected literary works in praise
of the bee. Cardinal Francesco'slibrary contained a manuscript
copy of the izth-century work by Thomas de Cantimpre pro-
claimingthe virtuesof bees.39Not surprisingly,this genre enjoyed
a resurgence in the I7th century. In his treatise entitled Christi-
ana hierarchia apum moribus adumbrata (The Christian Hier-
archy Outlined in the Customs of Bees), published in 1641 and
dedicated to Cardinal Francesco Barberini,Andrea Torelli cites
Homer, Xenophon, Plato, Pindar, Petrarch,Ambrose, and Au-
gustine to the effect that the bee, its cell, honey, and wax embody
Divine Wisdom.40The Solomonic injunction, "Go to the ant, O
sluggard, and consider her ways, and learn wisdom" (Proverbs
6:6) was replacedwith the variant,"Go to the bee, 0 sluggard,...
and learnwisdom."41Sinceantiquitythe bee had been admiredfor
its industry, frugality, chastity, intelligence, religiosity, and the
organization and architectureof its hive.42It was therefore emi-
nently appropriatefor a sacred context such as the Archiginnasio
Returning to the engraving of the groundplan (Fig. 7), we
cannot fail to recognize the reference to Urban, the principal
patron of the chapel, who was called by his admirersthe "Kingof
Fig. 9. Palladio, Il Redentore, Venice, begun 1576. Bronze figure of
the Bees."43The bee thereby provides a flattering link between Christ by Girolamo Campagna, I789-I590. (photomontage, Timofie-
the Barberinipatron and Divine Wisdom, just as it had in Sac- witsch, fig. 45).
chi's fresco where the throne of Divine Wisdom was adorned
with Barberinibees (Fig. z). The structuraland decorative sym- produced by the candle is a symbol of Christ, who is the light of
bolism of S. Ivo, so closely related to this literary tradition, the world and Divine Wisdom become flesh.44Poulsson suggests
should be appreciated as a kind of architectural encomium in that the statue referredto in the inscriptionon the drawing in the
praise of the papal patron and his family. Archivio di Stato must have been a statue of Christ.45The pas-
The bee imagery of the groundplan is also related to the altar sage from Proverbs inscribed on the drawing-"She hath set
image as it was originally envisioned. Torelli, whose book ap- forth her table... / Come, eat my bread, and drink the wine ...."
peared in 1641 at the time when Borromini was involved with (9.2-5)-is generally interpretedas a referenceto Christ's sacri-
designs for the groundplan of the chapel, notes that bees produce fice offered on the altar in celebration of the Eucharist.46
wax for the candles used in the Christian rite and that the light It is likely that the earliest idea for the altar statue was a
crucified Christ. The formal source for the colonnaded exedra
behind the altar in the drawing supports this supposition. Palla-
37. St. Ambrose, Hexaemeron, trans. J. J. Savage, in The Fathers of dio's colonnaded exedra in II Redentore47in Venice also serves
the Church, New York, I961, XLII,z21i2-6. as a backdrop for a statue of the crucifiedChrist (Fig. 9).48At the
3 8. B. Capelle, "L'Exultet pascal oeuvre de Saint Ambroise," Miscel-
lanae Giovanni Mercati, Vatican City, 1946, I, 219-246.
39. Vatican Library, Barb. Lat. 666. The work had also been pub- 44. Torelli, 50-5z. This symbolism is derived from the medieval Ex-
lished in the i6th century: Thomas de Cantimpre, Liber apum aut de ultet text. See Capelle, 219-246.
apibus mysticis, sive de proprietatibusapum, seu universale bonum ..., 45. Poulsson, 22-23.
Paris, 1510. 46. W. Strabus, Glossa ordinaria, in Patrologiae cursus completus,
40. A. Torelli, Christiana hierarchia apum moribus adumbrata, Bo- series latina, Paris, 1879, cxIII, cols. I091-1092. Poulsson, 22-23, ex-
logna, 164I, 39-44. amines the I7th-centurysourcesfor the Christ/DivineWisdom equation.
41. Belvedere d'Iesi, 5-9. 47. Portoghesi has noted the formal similarityof Borromini's apsidial
42. See Giarda. colonnade to that of Il Redentore. P. Portoghesi, The Rome of Borro-
43. See the "Canzone in Lode del Re delle Api" in Bracci, 46-48. The mini, trans. B. L. La Penta, New York, 1968, 151. Ost, III.
King of the Bees also appears in Cesi. 48. The over life-size bronze figure of the crucified Christ, with flank-

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302 JSAH, XLI:4, DECEMBER 1982

jl" r"^

f !i

- . ,
ii : ^
1 .:* jA

Fig. 11. Borromini, S. Ivo. Drawing of lantern tower, ca. 1649,

Albertina 510 (Vienna, Albertina).
Fig. I0. Borromini, S. Ivo. Lanterntower, (G. F. N.).

early stage of the design represented by the drawing in the Ar- dom naturally occurred to the architect and his patrons. A simi-
chivio di Stato the intended dedication of the chapel-to judge lar iconographic programappears in the fresco decoration of the
from the inscription-was to Divine Wisdom. Following the family chapel of Palazzo Barberiniand the adjoining reception
Pauline text-"We preach Christcrucified..., the power of God room with Sacchi's fresco. Pietro da Cortona's image of the
and the wisdom of God" (I Corinthians i :zI-4)-the image of crucified Christ (1631-1632) on the altar wall of the palace
Divine Wisdom is the crucifiedChrist. chapel was painted as the New Testament counterpart to Sac-
It has been logically suggested that the statue might have been chi's Old Testament allegorical personification of Divine Wis-
a direct representationof Divine Wisdom,49but given the lack of dom representedon the ceiling of the preceding room.50At pre-
any tradition for statues of this Old Testament personification, cisely what point the dedication of the new Archiginnasio chapel
least of all as an altarpiece, a statue of Christ crucified would to Divine Wisdom was dropped is uncertain, but after the death
have been more appropriate. A remnant of this Christological of the Barberini Pope in 1644 the wisdom iconography as an
program appears in the stucco medallions with the chi rho lo- element pleasing to the patron would have been less significant.
cated above the drum windows on the exterior of the chapel (Fig.
The Lantern Tower
The association between a crucified Christ and Divine Wis- Most iconographicanalysesof S. Ivo have been directedtoward
the helical tower with its flamingterminusrising above the dome
lantern (Figs. I-I I). This tower has become the conundrum of
ing statues of SS. Mark and Francis, is by Girolamo Campagna (1589-
90). The originalvisualrelationshipbetweenthe Christfigureand the Seicento studies. Eight major interpretations of the meaning of
columnsof the exedrawas disruptedin I679-I680 when a massive the tower have been published since the tercentenaryof Borro-
Baroquetabernaclewas erectedon the altar.W. Timofiewitsch,Giro- mini's death in i967.51 All of them relate the tower to the theme
lamoCampagna,Munich,I972, 253-254, figs.44-45. Figure9 repro-
ducesTimofiewitsch's photomontagereconstruction of the originalal-
targroup. 50. Scott, 35-37.
49. Fagiolio dell'Arco, I967. 51. Portoghesi, Linguaggio, 157; Ost, 127-134; Battisti, 262-265;

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of Divine Wisdom, as established by the location of the chapel One particularly persistent type of interpretation is based on
within the Sapienza and by the quotation from Proverbs on the themes of secular learning and refers to Ripa's allegorical repre-
Archivio di Stato drawing. Scholars, however, sharply divide on sentation of Philosophy. In the I603 edition of Ripa's handbook
the nature of that wisdom. Philosophy is depicted with her robe divided by a spiraling flight
The interpretations can be placed into three main groups: of stairs, and the figure of Intellect is represented with a flaming
those based on scripturalpassages from the Old Testament Wis- crown symbolizing "the natural desire to know."66 Following
dom Literature,52those which begin with a visual prototype of a this theory, the tower of S. Ivo thus consists of a combination of
theological nature,53 and those offering prototypes related to two elements, the spiral steps and the flaming crown, both of
secular learning.54All interpretationstake as their starting point which refer to the educative function of the Archiginnasio.67
and focus the spiral form of the tower, assuming it to have, as There is also the tradition of the Tower of Grammar or the
Wittkower said, "an emblematic meaning."55 Tower of Wisdom, which is based on the Boethian principle that
In a pioneering article on Borromini, Paolo Portoghesi ob- the student must pass through seven successive stages repre-
served that the tower of S. Ivo is ornamented with jewels and sented by the seven Liberal Arts in order to ascend to the summit
consists of three complete turns around a central core. He there- of learning, which is Philosophy.68 Such a humanistic interpre-
fore interpreted the tower as the three crowns of the papal tiara tation of S. Ivo has a long history. In his book on bells and bell
transformed into a continuous spiraling band.56Portoghesi also towers published in i 806 Francesco Cancellieri commented that
hypothesized that the formal idea for the spiral came from na- the flames atop the spire of S. Ivo "allude to the effect of the
ture-from a spiral sea conch Borromini is known to have pos- sciences which illuminate those who cultivate them."69 This no-
sessed.57In his subsequent monograph on Borromini, Portoghesi tion was repeated by Moroni in I857,70 and, at the end of the
emphasized the spiral walkway of the tower as a space to be Igth century, by Francis M. Crawford who saw the tower as a
metaphorically traversed by man.58 He read the steps of the realistic representation of the "arduous path of learning."71
exterior dome vault and the walkway of the spiral as the difficult The number and variety of the sources and meanings put forth
path along which man is led to Divine Wisdom, symbolized by in the interpretations of the iconography of S. Ivo indicate a
the flaming crown at the apex. Portoghesi's apparently intuitive persistent uncertainty about the symbolic elements of the tower.
interpretation, however, has not found general acceptance in the There has, however, been no attempt to establish what terms
subsequent literature,as evidenced in the myriad prototypes sug- were used by contemporaries to describe the tower, and no sig-
gested for the tower: the Old Testament Pillar of Fire,59 the nificant use has been made of the construction documents in the
Tower of Babel,60 the Lighthouse of Alexandria,61 the Pillar of Archivio di Stato.72 This material contains the key to the mean-
the Universal Church,62 Dante's Mount of Purgatory,63 an ing of the spiral tower. It indicates that the iconography of S. Ivo
Augsburg table clock,64 and even Mount Olympus.65 is dependent on one fundamental theological truth. Wisdom is a
gift of God. It is a spiritual condition, not an intellectual quality.
Furthermore, the chief attribute of wisdom is charity, symbol-
Fagiolo dell'Arco, 1967, 156-157; Hauptman, 73-79; Poulsson, 36-
ized by flames, and the papal charity manifested in patronage of
38; Steinberg, 394-396; and Malmanger, 245-246.
52. Portoghesi, 1955, 28-29, I964, 49-52, Linguaggio, 149-158; the Sapienza exemplifies the highest wisdom.
Malmanger, 237-249. At the death of Innocent X in 65 5 the chapel was essentially
53. Ost, 101-142; Hauptman, 73-79; Steinberg, 374-396; Pouls-
complete on the exterior but remained unfinished inside. At this
son, 36, 57-58.
54. Battisti, 263-265; Fagiolo dell'Arco, I967, I56. stage Martinelli likened it to a "body without a soul, the inside
55. Wittkower, 1973, 2Io. lacking ornaments and religion."73 A papal avviso dated i6 June
56. Portoghesi, 1955, 28.
57. Ibid. The conch is recorded in the inventory of Borromini's pos-
sessions taken at the time of his death. See Portoghesi, 1964, 385-400;
Del Piazzo, 167, 169. 66. C. Ripa, Iconologia, Rome, I603, 164, 238.
58. Portoghesi, Linguaggio, 157. 67. Battisti, 263-265; Fagiolo dell'Arco, I967, 56.
59. Malmanger, 245. 68. For a similar "ascent" theory see M. Rivosecchi, "Dinamismo
60. W. Born, "Spiral Towers in Europe and Their Oriental Proto- ascensionale nella architettura del Borromini," Studi sul Borromini,
types," Gazette des Beaux-Arts, ser. 6, xxiv, 1943, 234, 244; Ost, Rome, 1967, II, i22: "... Borromini vi ha ideato e atuato il Tempio del
I27-134. sapere umano, sempre in ansia di ascesa."
6I. R. Wittkower, "Un libro di schizzi di Filippo Juvarra a Chats- 69. F. Cancellieri, Le due nuove campane di Campidoglio, Rome,
worth," Bollettino della Societa Piemontese di Archeologia e di Belle I806, I77.
Arti, III, 1949, I06; Hauptman, 73-79. 70. Moroni, LXXXV, 43.
62. Steinberg, 393-396. 7I. F. M. Crawford, Ave Roma Immortalis, London, 1898, 326.
63. Poulsson, 36, 57-58. Poulsson's study is particularlyvaluable for 72. Poulsson made use of some of the material but specifically rejected
the critique of the literatureon the iconography of the chapel. its value for establishing the iconographic significance of the tower.
64. Born, 244-245. Poulsson, 91, 131.
65. Battisti, 264, n. 26. 73. Martinelli, 276r-277r.

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304 JSAH, XLI:4, DECEMBER 1982

terms appear leaves no doubt that Borromini himself conceived

+r of the spiral as bejeweled crowns. Martinelli, whose words must
echo those of the architect, says that the spiral is decorated with
"ornament which has the guise of a crown."77 The cut jewels
appear in the stucco decoration of the spiral bands, while the
projecting "knobs"-as they are sometimes called-around the
upper rim of the bands representmounted pearls. Since the spiral
makes three complete turns,78the crowns must be three in num-
ber. The document therefore confirms Portoghesi's remarkthat
the tower is meant to recall the triple-crowned papal tiara.79A
simple logic underliesthe architect'suse of the tiaraon the tower.
This part of the chapel would itself be called the corona of the
building. Furthermore,the edifice was a papal commission for a
papal institution-a fact that officials of the Archiginnasiowere
proud to emphasize. Moreover, the tiara, as a heraldic element,
was an appropriateterminatingdevice for a structurethat incor-
porated heraldicsymbolisminto its very foundation and fabric.80
In his design for the tower the architect drew upon a local
tradition for tiara-topped structures.The dome of the catafalque
of Paul V by Sergio Venturi, erected in 1622 in Santa Maria
0 Maggiore, had the general shape of the papal tiara.81The cata-
falque of GregoryXV, erectedin 1623 in St. Peter's,was crowned
with a fully elaborated papal tiara (Fig. i2).82 The catafalque of
Innocent X, erected in the Chapel of the Holy Sacramentin St.
Peter's in I655, also had a tiara top.83In 1645, at the time work

Fig. z1. Giacomo Lippi, Catafalque of Gregory XV, St. Peter's, Rome,
1623. Engraving by 0. Gatti, Rorne, Gabinetto Nazionale delle Stampe allecoronechegiraattornoa tuttastradaqualevana diminuire
...," fols.
(author). 44v-45r. Albertina 51o (Fig. iI) shows the spiral still without its jew-
elled decoration.This omissionPortoghesiadducesto the "practical
necessity of simplification." Portoghesi, 1968, 5 I. Albertina 5 I I repre-
of that same year informs that Alexander VII had ordered the sentsa somewhatlaterphasein thedevelopment
of thetowerdesign(ca.
completion of the chapel.74Preparatoryto recommencing con- 1649-1652), but is unfinished, with only two of the mounted pearls
indicated on the spiral. Ibid., pl. LI.
struction Borromini was ordered by the then Rector of the Ar-
77. "Per tanto disegnata l'Ape sodetta col fondamento, sollev6 la
chiginnasio, Carlo Montecatini, to make a complete survey fabrica con angoli e linee in varie forme et ordini correspondenti l'un
(misura e stima) of the work accomplished up to that date. This all'altro, assottigliandola a guisa di padiglione sin all'imboccatura della
lanterna, la quale nel di fuori si trasforma in un tempietto, o torre, cinta
document, dated 22 July 65 5 and signed by the architect and di loggia incoronata a chiocciola, et in essa una commoda scala per salire
his assistant, FrancescoRighi, is with the materialin the Archivio sin alla Croce, la quale viene nascosta agli occhi de reguardantidall'or-
di Stato.75It consists of a complete description of the chapel, as namento che a guisa di corona, cinge dette loggia per tutta la chiocciola."
of that date, written in the words of the architect and his assis- Martinelli, 275v-276r.
78. In the upper right corner of a cross-section drawing of the tower
tant. The entries relatedto the spiraltower mention "jewels"and Borromini has written: "Si risolve di redurre tutte tre le girate...."
refer to the spiral as "crowns."76The context in which these Albertina 510 (Fig. i ).
79. Portoghesi, 1955, 28.
80. For the heraldic use of the tiara, see D. L. Galbreath, Papal Her-
74. Vatican Library,Barb. Lat. 6367, at "z6 Giugno I655." aldry, Cambridge, 1930, I7-26.
75. Archivio di Stato di Roma, Universita 198, fasc. 123. This docu- 81. 0. Berendsen, "The Italian Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century
ment was first cited by Thelen, 1961, 298, n. 58. Also see Del Piazzo, Catafalques," Dissertation, New York University, 1961, 129-131,
233. 196-198.
76. Archivio di Stato di Roma, Universita 198, fasc. 123: "Per L'ag- 8z. The catafalque was designed by Giacomo Lippi and engraved by
getto rustico bozza e stucca delle facce che recingono le gioie delle corone 0. Gatti. Rome, Gabinetto Nazionale delle Stampe.
...," fol. 43v; "Per aggetto rustico bozza e stucca dell'imbasamento 83. For an engraving of the catafalque, see G. Alitino, Relatione
orbicolato di sotto le requadramentidelle corone che recingeattorno ...," dell'ultima malatia, e della morte della felice e s.ta memoria di Papa
fol. 44r; "Perla mura rusticacon l'aggettobozza e stucca delle gioie e fiori Innocentio Decimo ..., Rome, i655, 8. Also, F. F. Mancini, Compendio
no. 22 nelli requadramentiche forma fregiaturaalle corone ...," fol. 44v; della vita, et gloriose attioni del sommo pontefice Innocentio Decimo
"Per la mura aggetto bozza e stucca delle gioie e ornamenti che fan i razzi . ., [Rome], [i655], 7-8.

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, /

I?-W " *' I<. ?

4 *



Fig. 14. Borromini, S. Agnese, Rome. Detail of cross-section drawing of

dome and lantern tower, I653. Albertina 59 (Vienna, Albertina).

Fig. 13. Borromini, Detail of Baldacchino project for S. Maria a Cap-

pella Nuova, Naples, 1645. Albertina, Napoli z (Vienna, Albertina).
of the design for the campanili of St. Peter'sand the lantern spire
of S. Ivo, both produced under Pamphilipatronage, shows strik-
at S. Ivo was proceeding, Borromini himself produced under ing similarities (Figs. 16-17). The difference is that at S. Ivo the
Barberinipatronage a design for a tiara-toppedbaldachin for the crowns are transformed into a continuous band connecting all
church of SantaMaria a CappellaNuova in Naples (Fig. 13 ).84 In three in a single spiralingform.
I653, as work continued at the Sapienza, Borromini drew up a The documents indicate that work on the lanternwas begun in
detailed cross-section of his design for S. Agnese (Albertina 59), April 65 Z87 and that the ironwork superstructurefinial with the
another Pamphili commission only a few meters from the Sapi- open onion dome, orb, flat metal Pamphilidove, and lily-pointed
enza (Fig. I4).85 This indicates a tall narrow pedestal-the Pam- cross were put in place above the spire of the chapel in the
phili lily-rising above the lantern of the dome. The architect summer and early fall of the same year (Fig. Io).88 Since the
planned to mount this pinnacle with a papal tiara and thereby common practice was to add stucco ornament working from the
designate S. Agnese, like S. Ivo, a papal edifice. top downward, the jeweled stucco bands would have been added
A design proposal submitted by Santi Moschetti for the cam- in the immediately subsequent period. In any case, the dated
panili of St. Peter's, dated i645, consists of three superimposed project for the campanili of St. Peter's pre-dates the tower of S.
crowns in reference to the papal tiara (Fig. 5).86A comparison Ivo by several years, since Albertina 510 (Fig. 1) of circa I649
shows that Borrominihad not yet arrivedat the final form for the
design of the ornament.89Although he need not have been in-
84. Albertina, Napoli z. P. Portoghesi, Disegni di Francesco Borro-
mini, Rome, 1967, 24-z5.
8 5. Of October 165 3. G. Eimer, La fabbrica di S. Agnese in Navona, 2 87. Archivio di Stato di Roma, Cartari-Febei76, fols. I3v, I7r, 239v.
vols., Stockholm, 1970, 309-313,esp. 310, n. 123, figs. I43, I67. Transcribed in Del Piazzo, I34.
86. Vatican Library,Vat. Lat. 13442, fol. 14. The reverseof the sheet 88. Archivio di Stato di Roma, Universita 109, 42r-47r. Also see E.
is signed "f. Santi Moschetti." The light open-work superstructurewas Re, "La Palomba della Sapienza," Capitolium, xvIII, I943, I75-I80.
conceivedas a solutionto the weakenedfoundationof the tower.See 89. H. Thelen, 70 disegni di Francesco Borromini dalle collezioni
Eimer, 134. dell'Albertina di Vienna, Rome, 1958, i8, no. 3z.

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306 JSAH, XLI:4, DECEMBER 1982



;i.l .j PP3 PA OLO V

Fig. i 5. Santi Moschetti, Projectfor

the campanili of St. Peter's, Rome,
1645. Drawing superimposed over
the Greuter engraving of Maderno's
elevation of St. Peter's, 1613
(Vatican Library).

spired by Moschetti's rather awkward design, Borromini knew general maintenance without the necessity of erecting scaffold-
of it since both architects were members of the committee to ing-a practicalconvenience not provided in a design such as the
which the project was submitted on 9 October i645.90 The two one for the St. Peter's campanili.93
architects were drawing upon a common current tradition of The spiral form of the lantern tower also emerged logically
papal structurestopped with the pontifical crown. from the idea of the spire as a tiara, for spiralityis inherent to the
Borromini's great novelty was to make the bands of the three symbolic essence of the papal triple crown. The crowns in the
crowns into a single continuous one. This extraordinaryinnova- tiara represent the,three spheres of papal authority-priestly,
tion has three explanations. The spiralhas a practicalvalue. As is royal, and imperial.94Taken together, they assert the universal-
evident from the wording of entries in the I655 misura e stima, ity of papal sovereignty.95The tiara is therefore a symbol of the
Borromini intended the spiral frieze of jewels to serve as a "para-
93. Access up to the base of the spiral is provided through a hollow
pet" for a walkway circlingup to the top of the spire.91Martinelli pier of the lantern tempietto.
calls the spiral "a commodious stairway for climbing up to the 94. B. Sirch, Der Ursprung der bischoflichen Mitra und pipstlichen
Tiara, St. Ottilien, 1975, i66, I8o-i8I.
cross."92 This allowed easy access for purposes of repair and
95. "Tres potestates, hoc est imperatoriam, regiam, & sacerdotalem,
plenariam scilicet, & uni-versalemtotius orbis auctoritatem." A. Rocca,
go. F. Ehrle,"Dallecartee dai disegnidi VirgilioSpada(d. i66z) Thesaurus pontificarum sacrarumque antiquitatem necnon rituum
(Codd. Vaticana lat. Iz57 e I 258)," Atti della Pontificia Accademia praxium ac caeremoniarum... znd ed., Rome, 1745, II, 178. This was
Romana di Archeologia, ser. III, mem. ii, I9z8, 21-28, esp. 22, n. o05. also the opinion of G. Leti [G. Lunadoro], Relazione della corte di
9g. "Muro della corona che fa parapetto che gira attorno a detto Roma, Rome, 1728, zz6: "Urbano V fu il primiero, che usasse la corona
finimento e lascia detta strada per poner salir alla corona che sta su la tripartita, chiamata tiara, per dimostrare, che il sommo pontefice ha la
sommita...." Archivio di Stato di Roma, Universita I98, fasc. 123, fol. potenza ponteficale, imperiale, e reale ...." Leti's book was first pub-
42v. lished in 1635, and this interpretation seems to have been prevalent in
92. Martinelli, z76r. the 17th century.

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WK, Pg ~ + ~
. I Ii ,

Fig. 16. Moschetti, Detail of project for the campanili of St. Peter's
(Vatican Library). Fig. 17. Borromini, S. Ivo. Lanterntower (G. F. N.).

unityof threeauthoritiesin that it combinesinto one the three

crownsrepresenting thosepowers.Byunifyingthecrownsintoa
singlespiralband Borromini carriedthe standardsymbolismof
the tiaraone stepfurther. While the threecrownsmaintaintheir
separateidentitieswithinthe spiraltheyaremadeone in a three-
as-onetrinitariansynthesisthatcanonly havebeenall the more
pleasingto thepapalpatron.
The purelyformalisticsuggestionthat Borrominimusthave
gotten the idea for the spiralfrom a conch shell has not been
well-received.96Thisis perhapsbecauseit presupposesthe link-
ing of two objects,thepapaltiaraandtheconch,thatapparently
have nothingin common.Thereis, however,a familyof spiral
concheswith Latinnamesalludingto the papalmitreand tiara.
Themitrapapalis(Linneclassification, familymitridae)is one of
the most characteristic of this group (Fig. I8).97 In the I7th
centuryshellssimilarto thisone wereknownas coronapapale,
because"thevolutesof its conelook likethe turnsin the crowns
placedon thepapaltiara."98 As Buonanni'streatiseattests,such

96. Portoghesi, 1955, z8.

97. E. Rogers, The Shell Book, Boston, 1951, 88.
98. F. Buonanni, Ricreatione dell'occhio e della mente nell'osserva-
tion' delle chiocciole, Rome, i68I, I98. This type is "tachete de rouge Fig. 18. Mitra Papalis, Conch shell, Red Sea, 4 in. (author).

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308 JSAH, XLI:4, DECEMBER 1982

C A R I T A.



Y -. ' A
, .I
.s. . - I
ex 4 -,I

Fig. I9. Ripa, Charity. Iconologia, Rome, I603, 74 (author).

objects were widely admiredand collected. They were valued not

merely as curiosities of nature but as natural emblems of God's
power, wisdom, and providence.99 The influence that such a
conch might have had on Borromini's design for the tower of S.
Ivo remains hypothetical, but the association between spirality
and the papal tiara was not unique.
Yet, except for the jewels and mounted pearls around the rim
Fig. 20. Andrea Orcagna, Charity, marble relief, Or San Michele
of the spiral, the tower is not fully shaped like the papal crown.
Tabernacle, Florence, 1349-1359 (Alinari).
This too perhaps accounts for the lack of critical acceptance of
the tiara thesis. But most detailed photographs and engravingsof
the tower are from vantage points that can hardly have been of the tower.'00 Standing in the cortile in front of the entrance
intended by the architect-often from the roofs of adjoining to the chapel, however, the viewer receives a very different im-
buildings (Fig. io). These images have distorted our perception pression. From this vantage point-marked by the Chigi heraldic
star in the pavement-the spiral is resolved into an almost per-
fect tiara (Fig. 5).101
assezregulierementsurun fondblanc,avecunetetea troisetagesgarnis The flaming travertine terminus rising from the top of the
de petitespointes,s'apellela Thiare."A. J. Dezallierd'Argenville,L'
Histoire naturelle eclaircie dans deux de ses parties principales, la litho- spiral crown must also be accounted for. Although the crown of
logie et la conchyliologie ..., Paris, 1742, 68, pl. IzE. flames has been interpreted as a symbol of Divine Wisdom,102
99. "Se i Cieli enarrantgloriam Dei, ancor'esse [conchiglie] dan argo- there is no tradition in the visual arts for such a symbol related to
mento di Dio, che nelle Creaturevilissime ostendit thesauros della Pon-
wisdom, but a crown of flames and flames in general are tradi-
tenza, e Sapienza sua, e in modo particolarepubblicano agli occhi di tutti
la Providenza di lui ...." Buonanni, I68I, 104. Borromini's personal tional attributes of charity.103Ripa's Charity with flaming hair
friend and collaborator at the Oratorio of the Filippini, Virgilio Spada,
was an avid conchologist. For his collection of shells and other curi- ioo. Many of the readily-available
osities, which he left to the Oratorians, see E. Pinto, La Biblioteca Valli- from the cortile are made with wide-angle lenses that distort the propor-
celliana in Roma, Miscellania della R. Societa Romana di Storia Patria, tions of the tower (Fig. I).
viii, Rome, 193 , 8z. Spada served as Innocent X's advisor in architec- o10. Borromini's intention that this view of the tower be taken as the
tural matters and maintained a similar position under Alexander VII. principal one is also indicated by the window soffit relief with the Lamb
His intervention in the approval of the final decoration of S. Ivo is on the Book of Wisdom (Fig. 5). The relief is tilted full-face toward the
recorded in the pope's diary. R. Krautheimerand R. B. S. Jones, "The observer positioned in the vicinity of the travertine Chigi star in the
Diary of Alexander VII," Romisches Jahrbuch fur Kunstgeschichte,xv, pavement in front of the entrance to the chapel.
I975, zoo, ziz, no. 365. Spada and Borromini must have discussed o02.Portoghesi, Disegni, 19, no. 50.
some of the technical problems inherent to church towers, since Spada 103. The tradition of Charity figuresin the early Renaissance has been
was head of the St. Peter'scampanili committee to which Borromini also traced by R. Freyhan, "The Evolution of the Caritas Figure in the Thir-
belonged. Ehrle, 21-28. Seashells and bell towers were evidently among teenth and FourteenthCenturies,"Journal of the Warburgand Courtauld
the common interests of the two friends. Institutes, xi, 1948, 68-86.

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Fig. 22. Giovanni and CherubinoAlberti, Charity.Detail of fresco, Sala

Clementina, Vatican Palace, I596-I600 (Musei Vaticani).

nated by Pietro da Cortona in 1660 and finished by his student

Fig. 21. Piero Pollaiuolo, Charity, Detail, tempera on panel, Uffizi, Giovanni Ventura Borghesi in i683,107 depicts S. Ivo, dressed
Florence, 1469-1470 (FratelliFabbri, Milan). in the robe of a Consistorial Advocate, in the charitable act of
receiving petitions from orphans, widows, and poor people (Fig.
exemplifies this type (Fig. i9).104 Crowns of fire, too, are 23).108 Since the senior Consistorial Advocate was given charge
common in representationsof Charity,such as Andrea Orcagna's of seeing to the legal defense of the poor and held the title "Ad-
relief (1349-1359) on the tabernacle of Or San Michele in vocate of the Poor,"109 the flaming crown also refers to the
Florence (Fig. zo) and Piero Pollaiuolo's panel of I469-I470 in governors of the Archiginnasio.
the Uffizi (Fig. z2). The figure of Charity in the Sala Clementina The association between the flaming crown and S. Ivo was
at the Vatican, painted by Giovanni and Cherubino Alberti
(I596-600o), carries this iconographic type up to the I7th
century (Fig. zz). Borromini drew from well-established visual cols. 997-I00z. P. Chevet, Vita, e miracoli di S. Ivo, sacerdote e con-
traditions when he designed the tiara and crown of flames for fessore, avvocato de'poveri, vedove, & orfani, Rome, 1640, 17-20.
107. Cortona personally presented the design to Alexander VII for
the lantern of S. Ivo.
approval on I April i660. Krautheimerand Jones, 213, no. 399. Only
The flaming crown, as a symbol of charity, surmounts the the top half of the painting had been finished by the time of the artist's
death in 1669. G. Briganti, Pietro da Cortona o della pittura barocca,
spire of the Archiginnasio chapel because charity is the chief
virtue of S. Ivo, patron saint of the College of Consistorial Advo- Florence, 1962, 265; E. Waterhouse, Roman Baroque Painting, Oxford,
1976, 56. It was put in place in i683. Del Piazzo, I43. Cortona's original
cates (the governors of the Archiginnasio) and the saint to whom drawing for the altar canvas is in the Uffizi, Gabinetti dei Disegni, Sant.
the new chapel was to be dedicated.'05 St. Yves Helory de 3022. A. M. Tempesta et al., Disegni italiani della collezione Santarelli,
Kermartin of Brittany (1235-1298) sec. XV-XVIII, Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, No. 25, Flor-
was trained in law and
ence, i967, 73, fig. 8z. Also see W. Vitzthum, review of Giuliano Bri-
theology and often represented the cases of orphans, widows, ganti, Pietro da Cortona o della pittura barocca in Master Drawings, I,
and other poor people who could not defend themselves or pay I963, 51.
for their defense. For this reason he became known as the "Ad- Io8. For the ceremonial dress of the Consistorial Advocates, see F.
Buonanni, La gerarchia ecclesiastica considerata nelle vesti sacre, e civile
vocate of the Poor."106 The altar painting of the chapel, desig-
..., Rome, 1720, 478, pl. 136. The saints in the fictive tapestry above
are, from left to right, St. Luke (patron of the Archiginnasio), St. Panta-
o04. Ripa, 1618, 74-75. leon (patron of medical doctors), St. Leo the Great (patron of theo-
Io5. The chapel was co-dedicated to St. Alexander, since the bones of logians), St. Alexander (relics given by Alexander VII), and St. Fortuna-
that saint were given to the chapel by Alexander VII. Archivio di Stato di tus (bones transferredfrom the old Archiginnasio chapel).
Roma, Universita 297, fols. 67r-8or; Del Piazzo, I37-138. 109. "Advocatorum Consistorialum senior Advocatus Pauperum ap-
Io6. Bibliotheca sanctorum, ed. F. Caraffa, 13 vols., Rome, 1966, vii, pellabatur." Cartari, 134.

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310 JSAH, XLI:4, DECEMBER 1982

Fig. 24. G. B. Paolucci, Engravedfrontispiece, Specularecharitatis

incendium ..., Rome, I649 (author).

This same miracle was referredto in an oration in praise of S.

Ivo delivered on I9 May, the saint's feast day, of the following
year. Such orations were part of the traditional ceremony in
which a young student of law at the Archiginnasio presented a
Latin oration in praise of S. Ivo before the assembled Sacred
College of Cardinals and the College of Consistorial Advo-
Fig. 23. Pietro da Cortona and Giovanni Ventura Borghesi, S. Ivo As- cates:111
sisting the Poor, oil on canvas, S. Ivo alla Sapienza, Rome, 1660-I683
(G. F. N.). He was once performing the sacred mysterieswhen a fiery globe
fallen from Heaven surrounded the head of this most blameless
current at the time Borromini was designing the new Archigin- priest so that he was crowned with the shining diadem of its rays.
nasio chapel. In 1640, Pietro Chevet, priest at the parish church Or perhaps the most Serene Prince of the elements [fire],
of S. Ivo dei Brettoni in Rome (in Vicolo della Campana), pub- bending himself into a curve, insertedhimself in the regal diadem
in order to promise to Ivo to reign over the elements? Here I
lished a biography of S. Ivo, Vita, e miracoli di S. Ivo, sacerdote e venerate these crowning flames....112
confessore, avvocato de'poveri, vedove, & orfani, and dedicated
it to Cardinal Antonio Barberini. He speaks repeatedly of the
fire of divine love, that is, charity, which consumed S. Ivo, and Io. Chevet, 39-40.
This ceremonywas heldin the parishchurchof S. Ivo dei Bret-
i i i.
recounts the miracle of the ball of fire that once descended from toni untilthe Archiginnasio
chapelwas completed.C. B. Piazza,Euse-
Heaven and stood over the head of the saint as he was saying vologio romano ..., Rome, 1698, trattato xII, chap. III,p. Ixx; Moroni,
mass. It was as if "S. Ivo had become fire, in order to go up to IX, 139, Lxxxv, 49-50.
I z. "Sacrasemelille mysteria
peragebat,cumigneuse Coeloglobus
Heaven, or as if God would crown the stupendous deeds [of ita Sacerdotisintegerrimi
caputambiuit,ut splendidoradiorumsuorum
Ivo] with that glorious ornament and divine fire."'10 diadematecoronaret.An ut IVONIregnumin Elementapromitteret

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Fig. 25. Borromini, Stucco Emblem, S. Ivo, dome interior, I659-1660

(Portoghesi, Roma barocca, pl. 137).

Fire imagery is exceedingly common in the orations, and the

virtue of charity figures in almost all of them. The engraved Fig. 26. Coat-of-Arms
of AlexanderVIIChigi.Chacon,Iv, col. 708
frontispiece of the oration delivered in 1649, entitled Speculare
charitatis incendium seu oratio de S. Ivone pauperum patrono
time Borromini was designing the chapel and construction was
(The Reflected Fire of Charityor Oration about S. Ivo Patron of
the Poor) and dedicated to CardinalFrancescoBarberini,depicts underway. The patrons, governors, professors, and students of
the Archiginnasiowere intimatelyfamiliarwith this iconography.
the rays of the Barberini sun being reflected from a mirror,
Borromini may not have had direct knowledge of these specific
igniting a taper, and in this way alluding to the charity of both
Ivo and the Barberini (Fig. 24).113 The column, block of stone, orations, but they must represent the immediate iconographic
tradition from which the architectdrew the crowning imageryof
and architecturalinstruments held by the putti allude to Cardi-
the lantern tower of the chapel where the feasts of S. Ivo and
nal Francesco's charity as a patron of architecture at the Sapi-
orations in his praise would henceforth take place. The flaming
enza where, even after the death of Urban, he maintained an
crown of S. Ivo may have become an enigma for subsequent ages,
interest. The orator of 1648 refers to "immense fires of divine
but it can hardly have been so for those who taught, studied, and
charity" and declares that "the earth was for Ivo only a school of
."114 worshipped at the Sapienza.
There is a second dimension to the meaning of the lantern
These orations give us the living iconography of S. Ivo at the
tower, for the flaming crown must also be seen in conjunction
with the spiral.The spire thereby becomes a flamingtiara. This is
elementorumille Serenissimus
Principisin Regiumsesediademasinua- especially evident when viewed from directly in front of the
vit? Veneror hic ego coronarias flammas...." G. Grisendi, Thaumatur-
chapel (Fig. 5). That Borromini conceived of the tower in this
gus gallicus sive de S. Ivone pauperum advocato oratio habita in eiusdem
templo, Rome, 1641, 6. The printed oration is dedicated to Taddeo way is confirmed by one of the stucco emblems on the dome
Barberini.These orations were regularlyprinted and many of them from interior (Fig. 25). This stucco decoration was among the finish-
the I 7th century are preservedin groups in the Archivio di Stato di Roma
ing touches completed in i660 under Alexander VII.115By su-
(Universita zoI) and in the Vatican Library (Barb. Stamp. v. vII. Ioo).
Many have Barberinidedications, e.g., I627, 1629, 1633-1641, I643, perimposing the three crowns of the papal tiara over the heraldic
I644, 1649, I657, etc. Chigi monti with the star above (Fig. 26), Borromini created a
II3. G. B. Paolucci, Speculare charitatis incendium, seu oratio de S.
Ivone .. ., Rome, I649. Paolucci's frontispiece is a conflation of two
adjacent images in Ripa (I6I8, 385-387). I15. The contract for the dome stucchi is dated 13 July 1659. Archi-
I14. F. de Rossi, Ivo Divinitatis hospes oratio ..., Rome, 1648, 5-6, vio di Stato di Roma, Universita II4, fol. 419; Del Piazzo, 136; Pouls-
1O. son, 2.

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312 JSAH, XLI:4, DECEMBER 1982

Fig. 28. Borromini, S. Ivo, dome interior (Arte Fotografica, Rome).

commemorated each year by the professors and students of the

Fig. 27. Giannini, S. Ivo. Cross-Section. Opera, pl. VIII (author). Archiginnasio in an anniversary requiem mass for Leo X. The
Medici Pope had been a great benefactor of the Sapienzaand had
device alluding to the papacy of Alexander VII, the last patron of built the old Archiginnasio chapel.18 In the I7th century it was
the chapel. This device was not new. It had belonged to the mistakenly believed that he had founded the institution. 19This
iconography of Sixtus V, whose coat-of-arms also included star- function of the chapel was second in significance only to the
topped monti, and appears as a decorative element in fresco feast of S. Ivo and included the erection of a catafalque and the
work carried out under Sistine patronage at the Lateran Palace delivery of a Latin oration in praise of Leo X by a professor of the
and the Vatican Library.16 Borromini, however, has added one Archiginnasio.120Leo's importance is also shown in Cortona's
scarcely noticeable yet important detail. The top-most crown is a altar painting where his namesake, Pope Leo the Great, crowned
flaming crown which transforms the device into a flaming tiara with a tiara and reading Scripture,occupies the central position
analogous to that of the lanterntower, only without the spiral.117 directly beneath Christ. Only three of the orations in praise of
The Archiginnasio, from its founding by Boniface VIII to the Leo X have been preserved,but all three speak of Leo's liberality
completion of the chapel and library under Alexander VII, had in providing for the Sapienza.121 The images of the flaming
always been dependent on papal patronage. That patronage was tiara therefore represent the papal charity which brought the
Archiginnasio into existence and provided for its maintenance.
16. It also appears in an engraving of Domenico Fontana commem-
orating the erection of the Sistine obelisks. D. Fontana, Della trasporta-
tione dell'obelisco vaticano ..., Rome, 1589, opp. 75. The engraver is 18. Dedicated to SS. Leo and Fortunatus. Ratti, 6; Del Piazzo, o20.
Natale Bonifaccio. Portoghesi, I955, 29. The monti of Sixtus V (Per- 19. Macedo, Io. This error was noted by Ratti, 51.
retti), however, are only three in number. Izo. The catafalque with baldacchino is mentioned in the annual
II117.The cross-section view of the lantern in Albertina 51o (Fig. ii) expense accounts for the ceremony. Archivio di Stato di Roma, Univer-
shows that Borromini had originally intended to project in stucco this sita 198, fol. zz8r-zz8v. For the ceremony itself, see Piazza, trattato xn,
same crown of flames, with a laurel wreath base, onto the inner facing of chap. inI, p. XII; Moroni, LXXXV,8-10, 49-50.
the lower part of the lantern, but when this section was finally stuccoed izI. Archivio di Stato di Roma, Universita zoo. See especially G.
under Alexander VII the alternating oak and monti of the Chigi coat-of- Carpani, De laudibus Leonis X Pont. Opt. Max. romanae archigymnasii
arms supplanted the crown of charity (Fig. z7). restitutoriis oratio, Rome, 1646.

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The Interior Stucco Ornaments The interior decoration of S. Ivo thereby abstractlyrecreatesthe
archetypicalwisdom-bringing event.
The interior decoration of the chapel (Figs. 27-28) has re- A passage in the misura e stima of July 165 5 verifies that the
ceived much less critical attention than the lantern spire. It ba- dove is coming from Heaven "with its rays which make a splen-
sically reflectsthe same themes of wisdom and charity seen in the dor around it of tongues of fire in the form of the coming of the
groundplan and exterior decorations, with referenceto the inter- Holy Spirit which brings the true Wisdom... ,126 The location
ests of the patrons and governors of the Archiginnasio and to the of the dove in the lanternvault is traditional, and the idea that the
major ceremonial functions of the chapel. The dove of the Holy Holy Spirit brings wisdom is a theological commonplace,127but
Spirit in the vault of the lantern was the first element of the it is noteworthy that this is the only passage in the 133-page
interior stucco decoration to be completed. This dove (which has document where the language departs from a purely technical
since fallen from its place) carried an olive branch in its beak, description to make a direct iconographic statement. The archi-
thus identifying it with the Pamphili dove from the coat-of-arms tect apparently wished to emphasize at this point what he con-
of Innocent X, under whose patronage the interior of the lantern sidered to be the key iconographic element carryingthe essential
was decorated in I653.122 The remaining dome decoration, symbolic message of the entire decorative program.
completed I659-1660, consists of angels, stars, and two types If the true wisdom is the divine illumination brought to man by
of emblems alternating above the pointed and round-headed the Holy Spirit, then human wisdom, i.e., secular learning with-
windows piercing the dome. The oak of the over-window em- out reference to the higher truths of Christian doctrine, must be
blems (as well as the stars and monti) are elements from the of a lesser order.128This is the unstated but everywhereapparent
coat-of-arms of Alexander VII (Fig. 26). counter-theme. The symbolism of Borromini's church functions
A document signed by Borromini and Righi states that the as an antidote to the worldly intellectual activity of the Archigin-
glory surrounding the dove of the Holy Spirit in the lantern has nasio. Cortona's altar painting (Fig. 23) encapsulates this theme
15 "flaming tongues" ("lingue infiammate").123In the ora- as Christ (Divine Wisdom) gestures commandingly toward the
tion given on the feastday of S. Ivo in 1638, entitled Lingua book held by St. Panteleon-visual affirmationthat "all wisdom
ignea, the speaker recalled the miraculous descent of the dove of is from the Lord God" (EcclesiasticusI: ).129 The lower half of
the Holy Spirit upon S. Ivo as he was praying. The dove, the the painting depicts the proper use of the true wisdom imparted
listeners were told, was surrounded by tongues of fire like those above-S. Ivo in the charitable act of administeringto the poor.
which descended upon the Apostles and informed them with the Charity is a manifestation of true wisdom. 130
divine word. By a similar tongue of fire Ivo was imbued with a The same attitude is confirmed in the libraryof the Archigin-
"fiery tongue" of eloquence in defense of the poor.124 Borro- nasio, designed by Borromini, where the ceiling fresco by Cle-
mini's use of the term "flaming tongues" leaves little doubt that
he had in mind here the Pentecost, for this is precisely the termi- z6. "Consuiraggichefannosplendoriattornoconlinguedi fuocoin
nology used in the Bible (Acts 2:3) to describe that event. This guisadellavenutadello SpiritoSantoche portala veraSapienza...."
likelihood is all the greater since the architect specified that the Archivio di Stato di Roma, Universita I98, fasc. 123, fol. 52v.
flames were 15 in number, the traditional number of recipients 127. Based on Isaiah 11:2. A Vacant, E. Mangenot, and E. Amann,
eds., Dictionnaire de theologie catholique, 15 vols., Paris, I903-1950,
of the divine fire. Because there were only z wall niches below, IV, cols. 1728-1781. Wisdom is the first of the seven gifts of the Holy
Borromini was unable to develop the theme with absolute theo- Spirit. In Ecclesiasticus (I:9-Io) Divine Wisdom is equated with the
Holy Spirit: "He [God] created her [Wisdom] in the Holy Ghost...."
logical accuracy; yet, there can be little question that Ost's read- Under "Sapienza Vera" Ripa ( 618, 456-457) says, "Non e la sapienza
ing of the lines of stars descending along the dome ribs as contin- numerata fra gli habiti virtuosi acquistati con uso & esperienza; ma e
uations of the flames of the Holy Spirit is essentially correct.125 particolar dono delle Spirito Santo, il quale spira dove gli piace, senza
accetatione di persona."
128. This theological truth was succinctly stated by Aquinas: "The
gift of wisdom differs from the acquired intellectual virtue of wisdom.
122. It was finished before May 653 when it is reported to have been The latter comes through human effort, the former 'comes down from
gilded. Misura e stima of zo May I653. Archivio di Stato di Roma, above.' The gift of wisdom presupposes faith." Summa Theologiae, 60
Universita 117, unpaginated. See Del Piazzo, 238. The 1655 misura e vols., London, I964-I976, xxxv, trans. T. R. Heath, za, zae, 25, I.
stima documents the presence of the olive branch: "Per la palomba fatta i29. For the identification of the saints in the painting, see above n.
nel campo in mezzo a detta corona che porta il ramo d'olivio agg. bozz. e io8. The only labeled book on Ivo's desk is the "Bibblia Sa.," indicating
stucca...." Archivio di Stato di Roma, Universita 198, fasc. 123, fol. the source of the saint's wisdom and charity. Although Borghesi fol-
I7r. lowed Cortona's original drawing for most of the details of the lower,
z3. Archivio di Stato di Roma, Universita I 17, pt. iv, unpaginated. unfinished half of the canvas, he significantlyeliminated the scene in the
124. C. F. Ceccarello, Lingua ignea sive S. Ivone pauperum patrono left background where Cortona had envisioned a view into a secular
oratio ..., Rome, 1638, 5-7. The miracle of the dove is also reported in library.
Chevet, 5 . Poulsson, 67-69, also interprets the dove in the lantern in 130. This venerable Christian ideal is confirmed by Aquinas, who
relation to the cult of the saint. observes that wisdom presupposes charity. Aquinas, Summa, za, zae,
125. Ost, 115-119, z13-124. 45,4-

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314 JSAH, XLI:4, DECEMBER 1982

Fig. 3o. Borromini, Stucco Emblem, S. Ivo, dome, interior, i659-i66o

Fig. . dome, interior, 659-66
(Portoghesi, Roma baroccoEmblem,
Roma barocca, pi. 134).Ivo,

Fig. 29. Clemente Maioli, Triumph of Religion, Ceiling fresco, Biblio- The emblems above the round-headed windows of the chapel
teca Alessandrina, Rome, i660-i665 (BibliothecaHertziana).
(Fig. 30)-the wreath, crown, palm fronds, and lilies-are sym-
bols of Christian virtue, martyrdom, and immortality.l34They
mente Maioli (i66o-i665)131 depicts Religion-not Wisdom- recall in hieroglyphic fashion for the worshipper the rewards
holding sway over the Four Evangelists and the Fathers of the attained by Sts. Fortunatus and Alexander, the two martyrs
Church (Fig. z9). The Evangelists and Church Fathers, pens whose remains had just been buried beneath the altar of the
poised, look upward toward Religion and the dove of the Holy chapel.135 But these objects are also symbols of wisdom and the
Spirit for inspiration. Matthew's angel, on the left, carries a scroll wise man.136The Chigi oak wreath that encircles the central
to remind the viewer to "seek ye therefore first the kingdom of elements thereby alludes to the wisdom of Alexander VII and
God, and his justice" (Matthew 6:33).132 As in the chapel, doc- establishes an emblematic association between the martyred
trine takes precedence over learning. Along the cornice at the saints buried in the chapel and the papal patron. Thus, the two
lower edge of the fresco are the three Theological Virtues. These types of emblems above the windows reiteratethe two principal
are the virtues which, like Borromini's "true wisdom," are in- themes of the chapel iconography-wisdom and charity-and
fused in man rather than acquired through intellectual effort.133 link them with the papal patron and the saints to whom the
They are gifts of God and represent precisely those virtues that
cannot be obtained through book learning but are characteristic I34. L. Reau, Iconographie de l'art chretien, 3 vols., Paris, I955-
of the highest wisdom. Of the three, Charity is placed foremost in I959, I, 425; E. Kirschbaum, Lexikon der christlichen Ikonographie, 8
vols., Freiburg, I968-I976, III, cols. oo-10z2.
conformity with St. Paul's dictum (I Corinthians 13:13). Like the I35. The remains of St. Fortunatus were transferred from the old
symbolism of Borromini's chapel the adjacent library fresco es- Archiginnasio chapel and the relics of St. Alexander were donated by
tablishes that the practice of religion and the Christian virtues Alexander VII. Ratti, 6, 30. These two martyr-saintsalso appear carry-
constitute true wisdom. ing palm fronds on the right side of the upper registerof the altar paint-
ing. See the preparatorydrawing (Uffizi, Sant. 3022) illustrated in Tem-
pesta et al., fig. 8z. St. Fortunatus is representedas a young priest and St.
I3I. Del Piazzo, I40--I4. To judge from the artist's request for the Alexander is the Roman centurion just below. Bibliotheca sanctorum, I,
inscription in the fresco, Carlo Cartari seems to have helped with the cols. 770-776, v, cols. 978-979.
program of the painting. Archivio di Stato di Roma, Universita I09, Borromini had already used a similar configuration of elements
io8r, II8r; E. Re, Biblioteca Alessandrina, Rome, 1945, 9-II. The (crown, palms, lilies) in reference to another martyr, St. Cecilia, in the
iconography, however, closely follows Ripa's entry for Religione. Ripa, pediment above the main portal of the Oratorio dei Filippini. Connors,
I618, 441. I980, 223. An engraved illustration of the portal is contained in S.
132. "Quaerite primum regnum dei et iustitiam eius." The tablets Giannini ed., Opus architectonicum equitis FrancisciBorromini, Rome,
held by the putto to the right of Religion are inscribed with the Ten 1725, pl. VII.
Commandments. I36. Ecclesiasticus 1:22; 24:18; 39:19. See also the remarks of Por-
133. Aquinas, Ia, 2ae, 62, I; Vacant, xv, pt. 2, col. 2782. toghesi, Linguaggio, 156- 57.

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chapelwas to be dedicated.Justas he had earlierdonewith the
Barberinibee imageryin the groundplanandthe Pamphilidove
in the lanternvault,BorrominiexploitedChigiheraldryfor its
broaderassociativevalues. Such symbolicusage parallelsthe
rhetoricaldevicesof writtenpanegyricsof the period-which
areextrapolationson impreseandheraldicelements-and is one
of the chiefcharacteristics
of Borromini'ssymboliclanguage.137
The z angelsin the domealso tie into the iconographicsys-
tem.Borroministatesthatthe six in the windowpedimentsare
Cherubim.138 Accordingto Danieli'streatiseon angels,Cherub
means"fullof science"becausetheyarethe angelswho contem-
plateGod'swisdom.139 Thesix-wingedangelsencirclingthelan-
ternopeningareSeraphim,the next andhighestorderof angels.
They are equatedwith the ardentfireof charity.'40The angels
thereforecontinuethe dualthemeof wisdomandcharity.
Intheorationof 1640, Syduscaeligallicani,S. Ivowaspraised
as a fierystarof Heaven,becauseheavenlyflameshaddescended
to ignite his breast.141
Chevetalso relatesIvo's vision of sur-
roundingSeraphim.142In additionto beinga generalallusionto
the Pentecost,the flamingdescentof the Holy Spirit,the stars,
and the angelscan also be understoodin termsof the saint's
The basicformaland decorativearrangement of the interior
cupola makes reference
to the dome of St. the mosaic
decorationof whichwas designedby Cesared'Arpinoandexe-
cuted under Sixtus V in 1590 (Fig. 31). The stars encircling the
lantern,the Seraphimwhichthen surroundthe stars,the lower Fig. 31. Cesare d'Arpino, InteriorDome Decoration, St. Peter's, Rome,
orderof angelsin the roundels,andthe descendinglinesof stars mosaic, ca. 590 (Bonechi Editore, Florence).
are all repeatedin stuccoin the cupolaof S. Ivo (Fig.z8). This
referencebrandsS. Ivoas a kindof miniatureSt.Peter's,signify- imagery in the Archiginnasio chapel is difficult to establish. The
ing that the chapelis partof a papalinstitution.144Hence the orations are filled with similes and metaphors that recall the
correspondence between the exterior lantern tower and the visual imagery of the chapel. Crowns, flames, stars, suns, doves,
domeinterioris thatof papaltiaraandcupolaof St. Peter's. angels, and even bees145abound in the orations just as they do in
The precisenatureof the relationshipbetweenthe orations the imagery of the chapel. Since Borromini knew little Latin it is
deliveredin praiseof S. Ivo and Borromini'suse of symbolic unlikely that he drew imagerydirectlyfrom specific orations, but
most probably he was informally advised in such matters by the
I37. For a panegyric of this type see F. Carrera y Santos, El summo patrons or an individual in their charge. The documents suggest
sacerdote panegyrico alegorico a N. SS. P. Alexandro VII, Rome, I655, that Cartariwas involved in this capacity.
wherebiblicalreferencesto stars,mountains,andoaktreesabound.For The dome stuccoes, moreover, seem to have served a dual
a comparablepanegyricbased on Pamphiliheraldrysee T. Tomasi,
Della esaltatione di papa Innocentio decimo, Rome, 1644. See n. 32 function. They not only recall for the viewer the virtues of S. Ivo,
abovefortheBarberinipanegyrics. the Consistorial Advocates, and the papal patron, but are also
I38. Archivio di Stato di Roma, Universita 198, fasc. 123, 54r: "6 the starting point for new encomia in their praise. The first feast
Cerubiniche guardanoin Chiesache sono nelli frontispeziidi dette
fenestre per di dentro...." of S. Ivo to be celebrated in the new Borromini chapel was in
139. F. Danieli, Trattato della divina providenza, Milan, I615, I93. I661. At the beginning of his speech the student orator posits a
Also see St. Gregory the Great, XL Homiliarum in evangilia lib. II, in connection between the chapel and his oration:
Patrologia latina, LxxvI, col. z5 2.
I40. Ibid. This new and illustrious structure, Eminent Fathers, requires a
141. A. Radicchi, Sydus caeligallicani..., Rome, 1640, II-I2. new and illustrious kind of oration; the majesty of the place
I42. Chevet, 39.
I43. Portoghesi, I964, I82.
I44. Steinberg has demonstrated that Borromini devised a similar 145. M. Griffioni, "Ivo sub imagine apis, oratio .. .," Vatican Li-
conceit for the interior of S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane. Steinberg, brary, ms., Barb. Lat. I735. This manuscript carrying a dedication to
397-410. Cardinal Francesco Barberiniseems not to have had a printed edition.

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316 JSAH, XLI:4, DECEMBER 1982

certainly demands equal majesty in speaking. But truly I am able

to employ no appearance of genius or eloquence of similar bril-
liance to the form of the walls, and so, unless I am mistaken, I will
gather there opportunely the material for speaking....146
The chief conceit of the oration is that the chapel of the Sapienza
has been rightly dedicated to S. Ivo because he is a model of
virtue, and his virtues are reflected in those of the Roman Curia
(a referenceto the Cardinalswho participatedin the annual feast
of S. Ivo). While the orator does not base the speech upon the
specific imagery of the chapel, it is clear that he views the new
Fig. 3 z. Giuseppe Morone, Medal of Alexander VII, I66o (Del Piazzo,
building as analogous to his oration. Borromini's symbolic or-
fig. 32).
nament is thereby perceived as the visual counterpart to the
rhetorical imagery of the oration.
but, as Connorshas pointedout, a muchmore commonsense
The Nature of Borromini's Symbolic Language
versionof the architectmay be closerto reality.'15The icono-
and the Meaning of S. Ivo
graphic components of S. Ivo-seen in their I7th-century con-
Borrominiattachedgreaterimportanceto ornamentand heral- text-are straightforward.The sun and bee imageryin the
dic symbolism than is generally supposed. Martinelli was only groundplan,the seven-columnexedra,the attributesof Divine
repeating the architect's concern when he stated that a building Wisdom, the chi rho medallions on the drum, the tiara spire, the
without ornament is like a body without a soul.147 Moreover, as flaming crown of charity, the descent of the Holy Spirit, the
Portoghesi has observed, the symbolic content in Borromini's flaming monti-tiara, and the insignia of charity and wisdom are
works is often identical to the structure-thus the bee in the all derived from common readily available sources such as the
groundplan of S. Ivo.148Heraldic imagery permeates the fabric Bible, the heraldry of the patrons, and Ripa's Iconologia. The
of the Archiginnasio chapel, from the bee in its foundation to the iconography of S. Ivo is more simple than recondite.
dove on the finial above the tower. Heraldry, too, was closely In terms of both formal and iconographic prototypes the ar-
linked to questions of social rank, and Borromini was pro- chitect drew upon traditions current in Rome at the time he
foundly absorbed in such matters of status.149Connors has iso- designed the chapel. The imagery of the groundplan, lantern
lated the architect's fascination with the imagery of aristocratic tower, and interior decoration refers to the practical and icono-
architecture as he sought to introduce it into the Roman Ora- graphic concerns of the patrons, reflects the most important
tory, even in the face of the more humble preferences of the functions which were to take place in the chapel, and acts as an
mistrustful Oratorian padri.'50At S. Ivo Borromini did not en- enticement for patronage of the building. We see reflected in the
counter such reticence on the part of the patrons. Indeed, every architecturaland decorative symbolism of S. Ivo not a Borromini
effort to enfold the building with an appropriately aristocratic steeped in obscurantism,but the image of a much more down-to-
and papal cloak was welcomed. earth artistic sensibility.
The symbolism of Borromini'schapel at the Sapienzahas been In I66o, to commemorate the completion of the Archigin-
generally interpretedin terms of exotic prototypes and recherche nasio chapel, Alexander VII had minted a medal depicting, on
iconographic sources. Such complex and learned exegeses are the reverse, the cortile facade of S. Ivo (Fig. 32).152 Above the
consistent with the popular view of Borromini as a mad genius, chapel an inscription reads OMNIS SAPIENTIAA DOMINO
(Ecclesiasticus I:I). This must be regarded as the final official
statement about the meaning of S. Ivo, and, not surprisingly,it is
146. "Nova haec, atque illustris aedificatio, Em. P. P. novum postulat,
in conformity with the old inscription above the entrance to the
atque illustre orationis genus; maiestas nempe loci parem desiderat in
dicendo maiestatem. Verum ego nullam adhibere possum, aut ingenii, cortile and with the architect's own key statement. That "all
aut eloquentis speciem tam luculentae parietum formae concolorem, wisdom is from the Lord God," that "fear of the Lord is the
adeoque nisi fallor, opportune inde loquendi materiampraecerpam ...."
G. D. Belhomo, Aulae romanae exemplar oratio de sancto Ivone ..., beginning of wisdom," and that the Holy Spirit "brings the true
Rome, i66i, unpaginated. wisdom" are three ways of expressing the same fundamental
I47. Martinelli, z76r-277r. theological idea-wisdom is an other-worldly virtue that de-
148. Portoghesi, 1968, 156. scends upon man, a passive recipient. Paradoxically, this is the
I49. See the observations in Connors, 1979, 285. Significantly, Bor-
romini was adorning S. Ivo with emblems of aristocratic, i.e. Pamphili,
patronage at the time he was knighted by Innocent X. The pope himself
inducted Borrominiinto the Order of Christon z6 July 1652. Del Piazzo, 15i. Connors, 1979, 285.
i6i. 152. F. Buonanni, Numismata pontificum romanorum ..., vols.,
I50. Connors, 1980, 77. Rome, 1699, ii, 686-688, pl. xxxi.

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principal statement of Borromini's S. Ivo as an allegory of wis- and is attained through mental exercise rather than as a divine
dom. Despite its location in an institution of secular learning, S. gift. It places the emphasis on man rather than God.
Ivo has nothing of the symbolism of secular wisdom. Quite the Even in the ceiling fresco of the library of the Archiginnasio,
opposite, it stands as an admonition to heed that which is the where an iconography of secularlearningmight most logically be
true wisdom, not mundane knowledge, but religion and the fear expected, the main figure is not Wisdom, but rather Religion.
of God. 153 Where the iconography of wisdom does appear at the Sapienza,
The idea that the spiral tower of the chapel could represent in the chapel, it has no connection with book learningor intellec-
anything like the "arduous path of learning" suggests a secu- tual endeavor. Borromini's S. Ivo rising within the cortile of the
larized post-Enlightenment understanding of the nature of wis- Archiginnasio is like a memento mori within a flatteringportrait.
dom. Such wisdom rests at the summit of worldly achievement. It serves not to exhort the viewer to attain worldly wisdom, but
It is a humanistic rather than a Counter-Reformational notion rather to remind him that "the wisdom of this world is foolish-
ness with God."154

153. Chevet'shomilyon the subjectmakespreciselythis point.Che-

vet, I o-I II. 154. I Corinthians 3: 9.

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