A Reconsideration of the Development of the Piazza del Popolo in the Reign of Alexander VII (1655-1667) Open Access

Ciejka, Jason (2011)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/pn89d739s?locale=en


During the seventeenth century, the Piazza del Popolo, which was located at the
main ceremonial entrance of Rome, was one of the most important public spaces in the
city. Yet, at the start of Pope Alexander VII's reign, the space was marred by
impoverished domestic structures, common gardens, and laundry fountains. The
architectural transformation of the piazza counted as one of Alexander VII's most
important urban projects and culminated in the construction of two twin churches, Santa
Maria di Montesanto and Santa Maria dei Miracoli. This thesis examines the conceptual
development of the Piazza del Popolo and addresses several challenges in the design
history of the project. First, it evaluates the evidence for Gianlorenzo Bernini's early
participation in an unrealized project to build porticos in the square. A reconsideration of
the graphic and documentary sources lends greater support to Bernini's direction of the
earliest phase of the project. Second, this thesis considers reasons why Pope Alexander
VII abandoned this portico project and assigned responsibility for the twin churches to a
new architect, Carlo Rainaldi. Third, the role of the religious orders located in the Piazza
del Popolo is reevaluated. The contribution of the Carmelites and Franciscans has been
obscured by the emphasis on Alexander VII's urban projects, but both papal initiative and
the influence of local institutions are considered in this essay. Finally, this essay offers
new suggestions about Rainaldi's presentation drawing for the twin churches (Biblioteca
Apostolica Vaticana, Chigi PVII 13 ff. 26v-27r). An analysis of the drawing reveals an
elaborate conceit for the twin churches articulated during the planning phase. Considered
in tandem with various inscriptions for the twin churches, this drawing points to
Alexander VII's literary interests and adds an iconographic dimension to the study of the
Piazza del Popolo.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
I. Introduction to the Problems and Literature of the Piazza del Popolo
II. Early Planning: The Role of Gianlorenzo Bernini
III. The Emergence of the Twin Churches in the Urban Design
IV. The Presentation Drawing of 1657/58: Rainaldi's Concetto and
Architectural Sources
V. Alexander VII's Chirograph, Carlo Fontana, and the Construction of
the Twin Churches
Catalog of Drawings

About this Master's Thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files