Portrait of Borromini, church of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane
Francesco Borromini (1599-1667), whose work is to be found almost exclusively in Rome, was one of the greatest exponents of Baroque architecture. His style was inventive, ground-breaking and, at times, distinctly idiosyncratic. Francesco Castelli (Borromini's original name) was born in Bissone, which is now in the canton of Ticino in Switzerland, on September 25th 1599. He was the son of a stonemason, a craft he practised himself. He studied and worked in Milan before moving, in 1619, to Rome, where he started working for the architect Carlo Maderno (1556-1629), a distant relative. Borromini was active at St Peter's Basilica, Sant' Andrea della Valleand Palazzo Barberini. Maderno died on January 30th 1629. In 1634, Borromini received his first major independent commission to design the church, cloister and monastic buildings of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, better known as San Carlino.
Once he had become established in the Eternal City, the architect changed his name to Borromini, a name deriving from his mother's family and perhaps also out of regard for St Charles Borromeo.
In 1637 Borromini was commissioned by the Congregation of the Filippini (also known as the Oratorians) to build a residence and oratory adjacent to their church Santa Maria in Vallicella, better known as the Chiesa Nuova. The beautiful Palazzo dei Filippini is distinguished by its curved facade.
Between 1642 and 1660 Borromini built the remarkable Sant' Ivo alla Sapienza, which was the church of the university of Rome.
In 1644, at the behest of Pope Innocent X (r. 1644-55), Borromini replaced Bernini in the construction of the Palazzo Propaganda di Fide. His contribution was the design of the side facade, which overlooks Via di Propaganda. He also designed the Cappella de Re Magi, which lies insides the palazzo.
On the occasion of the Jubilee of 1650, Innocent X entrusted Borromini with the reconstruction of the nave and side aisles of San Giovanni in Laterano, the cathedral of Rome. For the same pope Borromini also worked on the church of Sant' Agnese in Agone, designing its facade, bell towers and dome.
Francesco Borromini died on August 3rd 1667, as a result of a self-inflicted sword wound. He is interred in the church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini.