S. Andrea al Quirinale : die Entstehung von Gian Lorenzo Berninis römischer Ovalkirche

Glitsch, Tobias; Naujokat, Anke (Thesis advisor); Markschies, Alexander (Thesis advisor)

Aachen (2018)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Dissertation, RWTH Aachen University, 2018


With its semi-circular portico, the sweeping walls that extend the façade into the urban fabric and its highly dynamic interior enlivened by a host of different sculptures, Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s church of S. Andrea al Quirinale, built from 1658 onwards for the Roman noviciate of the Society of Jesus, not only combines some the most important motifs of Roman baroque architecture, but also epitomizes the idea of a Gesamtkunstwerk, in which architecture, sculpture and painting, spatial experience, colour, light and figural elements all combine to create the illusion of a sacred spectacle. The building is therefore universally regarded as one of the cornerstones in the history of Western architecture. Nevertheless, a monographic study on the church is still missing, various aspects of crucial importance for a full understanding of the building have not yet been treated in sufficient depth and even the physical structure of S. Andrea is currently known only in so far as the areas in question are openly accessible to the public. The present work aims to fill in some of these gaps within the scholarly discourse. To this end, the study scrutinises the conditions and processes which eventually led to the church assuming its final shape and offers a comprehensive analysis of the built fabric in its entirety. After an initial presentation of the building, which for the first time also covers the sepulchral chambers underneath ground level and the elaborate system of elevated galleries and which moreover gives a detailed account of the use of each of the spaces, the text critically summarises the existing literature, archival sources and on-site observations in order to establish a chronology of the building’s design, approval and execution process. In this way, the study helps to clarify further the genesis of S. Andrea itself. At the same time, however, by examining the quantity and measurement units used on site or by discussing a previously unknown construction technique of so-called "volte sopra terra" it also contributes to ongoing research on building practises in Early Modern Rome in general. An analysis of possible models and contemporary comparisons for S. Andrea’s essential architectural ideas and elements on the one hand highlights the way in which Bernini took on, combined or re-interpreted existing design approaches increasing their effect. On the other, such an assessment makes it possible to better contextualise the various compositional and functional solutions or even develop additional hypotheses on the programmatic intent embodied in the architecture. In particular, a first-time overview of burial vaults, crypts and lower churches in Early Modern Rome allows to identify the exposed shell of the underground spaces as a reference to Early Christian Catacombs, which in turn helped to present the novices with the Jesuit self-image as modern apostles and martyrs. And finally - again taking into account not only S. Andrea itself, but also several other buildings - the thesis examines the geometries of the various plans and elevations both on paper and on site, thus tracking the strategies used by Bernini to come to grips with the complexities of design inherent in the oval. All in all, by drawing on the results of extensive on-site research as well as on a reading of the primary sources and the cultural context guided by the resulting in-depth knowledge of the physical fabric, the present study aspires to creating a more holistic picture of S. Andrea al Quirinale, in which the cross-fertilisation between various methodological approaches leads to numerous unexpected and entirely original insights into a seemingly well known and widely praised building.


  • Faculty of Architecture [200000]
  • Chair of History of Architecture [217110]