Garden History in Baroque Rome
Pope Nicholas V , on his deathbed in 1455, urged his cardinals to re-establish Rome as the greatest city on earth. Julius II, remembering his predecessor’s last wish when he became Pope in 1503, commissioned Bramante to re-design St Peters, Michaelanglo to paint frescoes on the Sistine Chapel and Rapheal to decorate his private apartments. The Old St Peter's had been commissioned by Emperor Constantine in 330. It was a Basilican church, built on the site where St Peter had been martyred in the circus of Emperor Nero. It had an atrium which, one must assume, influenced the construction of arcaded cloisters throughout the Middle Ages. The atrium was originally grassed and planted. Later it was paved. The illustrations below show Rome before it came under the influence of Renaissance and Baroque ideas.
The Baroque style began in Rome, in association with the determination of Popes Julius II and Sixtus V to establish Rome as the greatest city in Christendom. This led to the re-building of St Peter's as the mother church of the Roman Catholic Faith. The drawing to the left shows the dome of new St Peter's, before the basilica was added, and the Belvedere Court, designed by Bramante, which linked St Peter's to the Belvedere. See Gothein's discussion of Bramante. In her book on Italian Gardens, Georgina Masson wrote:
"Fortunately there was already living in Rome the architect who
was best qualified to put Julius’ ideas into effect. This was
Donato Bramante, whose tempietto in the cloister of San Pietro in
Montorio had already demonstrated that here was a man who could
design a building in which ‘the classic Renais sance has
achieved its conscious aim to emulate classic Antiquity’.
Before he went to Milan in 1474 at the age of thirty, Bramante had
seen Laurana building the famous Ducal Palace of Urbino in his
native province of the Marche, and his own work in Lombardy was
infused with the same spirit of grandeur allied to simplicity, in
which the influence of Alberti was also evident. In 1499 Bramante
had settled in Rome with sufficient money upon which to live for
some time without accepting commissions. According to Vasari,
during the next few years he ‘worked in solitude and
contemplation, examining and measuring the Roman ruins in and
around the city as far as Naples, studiously measuring the Villa
Adriana’ (Hadrian’s villa near Tivoli). Vasari also
says that he had been commissioned by the Borgia Pope, Alexander
VI, to design some fountains, probably before he embarked upon the
cloisters of Santa Maria della Pace and the tempietto.
Domenico Fontana designed the Villa Montralto (c1585) [see illustration, left] for the man who became Pope Sixtus V. Gothein comments that "Villa Montalto had not only its own points de vue to rejoice in, but also the help of buildings outside. This attraction was not the least that was felt by the Pope when he chose the site for his villa, seeing that on one side there were the mighty towers and cupolas of the church of S. Maria Maggiore, on the east, looking through a great avenue, the little church of San Antonio, and on the west the ruins of the baths of Diocletian which extended right up to the park. Ever since Alberti's time the view from the garden had been an important consideration, and in a country that was so rich in the beauties of landscape scenery, it was easy enough to find a view. But Rome offered more than this with its abundance of ruins and churches, and it did not take long to see how a villa would be enriched by a view of such architecture."
The use of view points was highly significant. Sixtus V, in 1588 and with the aid of Domenico Fontana, planned a nexus of avenues to link St Peter's with a set of focal points in Rome. He is regarded as one of the founders of the Counter-Reformation because he established the administrative machinery which implemented the decrees of the Council of Trent (1545-63). He wanted to stop the spread of Protestantism