Type: History
Pages: 8 | Words: 2160
Reading Time: 9 Minutes

Architecture has a long history; perhaps as long as human beings became civilized and began to live in constructed structures. This is because as long as human beings lived in structures, they had to meet the needs to designing and putting up structures that were relatively durable. In other words, as long as human beings have existed, structures have also been erected. Moreover, the architects that this write up scrutinizes are of relatively recent time in terms of the absolute time line. These architects are Filippo Brunelleschi and Francesco Borromini. They almost lived in the same periods. While the latter lived in the renaissance period, the former lived in the Middle Ages. This essay seeks to compare these architects in terms of their background, lifestyle, work, achievements and architecture. The two architects were great professionals of their times and were relatively influenced by the underlying philosophies of the time they lived in. The Middle Ages’ architecture that Filippo Brunelleschi contains the initial traces of modernity while Borromini’s architecture was mainly characterized by renewal.

In order to effectively compare the two architects, the essay begins by comparing their backgrounds. There is no doubt that their backgrounds may have influenced their way of architecture. Thereafter, the essay offers a detailed discussion that compares their lifestyle, work and achievements. In a special way, the essay outlines the similarities and differences in their architecture. As mentioned earlier, it is expected that their architecture is primarily different since the two lived two centuries apart. Moreover, they both lived in Italy; a factor that may have contributed to their manifest similarities. 

Background Information

Francesco Borromini was also referred to as Francesco Castelli. He was born in September 1599 and died in August 1667 in Ticino. His father was a mason; something had great influence over his skill and passion in structures and they way they were put up. Actually, he personally began work as a mason: he dealt with stones. After studying in Milan, he moved to Rome in the neighborhood of 1920. After going to Rome, Borromini went to work under a relative who was instrumental in the constructions at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican. It could be said that his expertise was fully developed in Rome where he spent most of his life as an architect. He is worldly acclaimed for playing a leading role in the introduction of the Roman Baroque architecture.

On the other hand, Filippo Brunelleschi lived about 200 years before Borromini. He was born in 1377 and died in 1446. Although much is not known about his early life, his works made him popular. Although his father was a lawyer, he was inclined towards art. This brings out a major difference in Bruneslleschi and Borromini since the latter was actually influenced by his father. But as has been shown, Bruneslleschi’s father was in a completely different career and may not have necessarily influenced his son. His passion for art was increased when he was enrolled in Arte dela Seta where he encountered goldsmith, and later became a master goldsmith himself. In 1401, he won the competition for designing bronze doors for Florence Baptistery.

A major contrast exists on how Brunelleschi transformed from a goldsmith to an architect. It is also a unique thing that although Brunelleschi was trained in Medieval and gothic styles, he introduced classism in his architectural works. Specifically, he was a central figure in the creation of what has today been loosely referred to as renaissance. A major turning point in the European architecture was when Brunelleschi and his colleague Donatello travelled to Rome between 1402 and 1404 in order to study the ruins of Rome. Although many people had studied them, no one had actually scrutinized the physical fabric of the ruins. Brunelleschi and his friend returned to Florence to contribute to the architectural reform of the city of Florence.


In terms of their architecture, Borromini is applauded for several achievements. First of all, he was a very inventive and innovative architect. He had a great sense of geometry and symbolic representations in structures. He was a genius who was endowed with the ability to understand structures perhaps more than his contemporaries. Most importantly, perhaps, Borromini is known for having greatly contributed to the adoption of Classical forms of architecture in his works of the early renaissance time. For him, a building was not just a building but a repository of meaning. This meaning could be historical, social, political and also religious. With regard to the latter, structures were able to pass religious meaning from one generation to others. In addition, Borromini’s work was largely idiosyncratic. He was always thoughtful of his work before it was finally put up into a real building. His works were so pronounced that even the architects of the modern times in the nineteenth century appreciated it a great deal. Some of the Borromini’s works are the San Carlino, the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri, the Re Magi Chapel, and a few other works in Agone.

San Carlino was a group of Monastic buildings and churches that the architect was hired to design for a Spanish religious order referred to as Trinitarian. This was one of the very initial major contracts the architect worked on himself. Their construction commenced in 1638 and ended 1941. Specifically, the church in this complex is considered to be the key icon of the Roman Baroque architecture. In building the San Carlino church, Borromini employed a complex geometrical arrangement. The interior lower walls look as if they have been woven. There are interlocking octagonal designs, diminishing hexagonal designs and rising domes that actually brought out the concept of a Trinity, the core philosophy of the religious order.

Filippo Brunelleschi is popular for his discovery of perspective. As it will be seen, he was also instrumental in the construction of the dome of the Cathedral of Florence. This architect has made immense contributions in the fields of ship design, mathematics, sculpture, and other architectural designs. Although both Brunelleschi and Borromini were famous architects in Italy, they were based in different towns. While the latter was based in Rome, the former was based in Florence. In addition, while Borromini stands out in his contribution and actually starting and developing the Northern Europe Baroque Architecture, Brunelleschi is known for his contribution towards the renewal of Italy; historically referred to as Italian renaissance. Moreover, the renewal of Italy should not necessarily be confused with the renaissance in world history. Although the two architects lived in different cities as well as different periods, they have a point of convergence in that both were highly involved in the construction of religious structures such as churches, places of adoration among others. Moreover, Borromini has generally worked more on religious structures than Brunelleschi.

Brunelleschi is considered as having made significant strides as in giving perspective to renaissance architecture. Some of the major works are the two churches that he constructed: Basilica of San Lorenzo and Santo Spirito. These churches are great landmarks to date. Perhaps one of the most significant works and achievement was the construction of the Cathedral of Florence.

Although the cathedral was designed in the previous century, a dome had not been envisaged. It was not until Brunelleschi was contracted to do the dome. One of the restrictions by the church fathers was the fact that no rafters were to be used in its construction. As a result, it was unfathomable on how such a big dome would be constructed. Due to the immensity of the projects, Brunelleschi spent most of the time constructing the lantern, the exedra and the dome. Specifically, his mathematical and techno-geometrical inclusions were the most evident achievements in his work in Florence Cathedral and beyond.

Other inventions by Brunelleschi architecture include the establishment of a crane-like machine that would raise stones to the dome construction places up several meters above the ground. The machine, which was referred to as the hoist, was so unique that Brunelleschi is acclaimed for having issued the first patent. This just shows how the architect was a genius who did not want his ideas to be stolen. However, the fact Borromini may not have had the extreme mathematical and geometrical prowess cannot be used as a definition for their differences in their architecture. Moreover, it is critical to mention that he was also a transformational leader. It is said that he motivated them by bringing them food and wine while they worked. It is estimated that Brunelleschi used about 4 million bricks to construct the various cathedral compartments.

Although Brunelleschi was among the people who invented machinery using the concept of hydraulics, none of the machines exist today. This is perhaps because of lack a museum or architecture that would have preserved them. Moreover, he still stands out as one of the most iconic architects that ever existed. Other than the major church-related architectures, he also did other works that made him an achieved architect. These include, for instance, the walls of Staggia village, construction of a ship that transported marble and other minerals to Pisa, among others. Precisely, Brunelleschi did not only propel the field of architecture but also other fields such engineering, mathematics, design, urban planning, metallurgy and the like. Among all those, however, it could be said that the most outstanding achievement of Brunelleschi was his discovery of the linear perspective.

Due to the extensive nature of disciples in which linear perspective is applied; Brunelleschi has been able to gain a lot or reputation. In his original Florence Cathedral design, it was possible to view the structure differently in terms of oblique and frontal view. This concept has enthusiastically been applied in many physical and sciences as well as mathematics. As at that time, it was necessary because the chapels so constructed had to be visible from all other parts of the compound. Linear perspective is also applied in painting in which artists try to create the vanishing point as well as other linear aspects such as dimension.

The other major work of Borromini was the construction of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri. This was like a rebuilding of the Santa Maria church that lay in central Rome. This was under the hands of a religious congregation referred to as Filippini. These religious people wished that Borromini constructed their residence as well as a place where they would do their spiritual things such as devotions and prayers. Although the design began in the 1620’s, the final work was delivered as complete in 1640 when the oratory was complete. The library was not completed until 1643.

Notably, Borromini’s achievements were evident in the way he arranged the walls in order to support the overhead balconies. However, although Borromini worked for the religious congregation for 13 years, there were quarrels in the way he chose the building materials. Perhaps the religious did not understand his style; or perhaps the designs required an expensive input. As a result, in 1952, they employed another architect. Moreover, there is no doubt that Borromini made one of the greatest impacts with regard to the Baroque Architecture of the Northern Europe.

Borromini also designed and led the construction of the Re Magi Chapel in Rome. The chapel belongs to the College of the propagation of Faith, popularly referred to as Propaganda Fide. According to the architectural historians, this chapel is one of the most spatially unified in its interior design. This work and other achievements made it possible for Borromini to be a renowned architect of his times. Other works that he designed were: Santa Lucia, gates to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of St. Peter’s Basilica, Pallazo Spada, San Giovanni, Façade of Pallazo Falconieri, the interior of Leterano Basilica, and others. Due to his prominence, he was featured on one of the Swiss Frank bank note that was used between 1976 and the year 2000. The great architect passed on in 1667 after committing suicide in Rome. This was mainly attributed to depression and disorders of the nervous system. Moreover, Borromini remains to be one of the worldly acclaimed historic and iconic architects that ever existed.


This essay was an attempt to review the history of architecture by looking at two architects and their works. These architects lived in distant times, almost two centuries as well as different cities. Different time lines may have influenced their styles since each historical time, such as medieval times or the renaissance, had their own way of architecture. In addition, cities also had their own differences in terms of tradition of architecture. These two primary differences were manifested in the works of the two architects: Borromini and Brunelleschi. Although there were major differences in their approaches to style, these two great Italian architects made great impacts in historical development of architecture and general inventions. It was also shown that while Borromini’s early life and father’s career influenced him, Brunelleschi made his own career path as an accomplished inventor in mathematical concepts that have come to be widely used in architecture and other disciplines as well.

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