Francesco Borromini (Bissone near Lugano, Switzerland, September 25 1599 – August 3 1667 in Rome) was a Baroque architect, and active in Rome alongside the more prolific papal architect, Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
Son of stone mason Giovanni Domenico Castelli, Borromini began his career as a stone mason himself, and soon moved to Milan to study and practice this activity. When in Rome (1619) he changed his name (from Castelli to Borromini) and started working for Carlo Maderno, his distant relative, at St. Peter's. When Maderno died in 1629, he joined the group of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, with whom he completed Maderno's Palazzo Barberini.
In 1634, his first individual commission was the reconstruction of the church of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane (some authors say it is here that he changed his name). The small church is master conceit of Roman baroque, with undulating and geometrically satisfying elements and rhythms, both in the nave and facade.
Borromini's works include:
- San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane
- Sant'Agnese in Agone
- Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza
- Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterno
- Cappella Spada, San Girolamo della Carità (however, it is uncertain if Borromini really is the architect of the chapel)
- Sant'Andrea delle Fratte
- Oratorio dei Filippini
- Collegio de Propaganda Fide
- Santa Maria dei Sette Dolori
- San Giovanni in Oleo (restoration)
- Palazzo Giustiniani (with Carlo Fontana)
- Palazzo Falconieri
- Santa Lucia in Selci (restoration)
For Sant'Agnese in Agone, he reverted the original plan of Girolamo Rainaldi (and his son Carlo Rainaldi), which previously had its main entrance on Via di Santa Maria dell'Anima. The façade was expanded to include parts of the bordering Pamphilii palace, gaining space for the two bell towers (each of which has a clock, as in St. Peter's, one for Roman time, the other for tempo ultramontano, European time).
Borromini lost this commission before completion due to the death of the Pope Innocent X in 1655. The new Pope, Alexander VII, and Prince Camillo Pamphili called back Rainaldi, but this one didn't change very much and the church is mainly considered a notable expression of Borromini's concepts.
From 1640–1650, he worked on the design of a church and courtyard at the University of La Sapienza in Rome. The site, like many in cramped Rome, is challenged for external perspectives, though the dome and spiral motifs are peculiar and reflect the idiosyncratic architectural used by Borromini in comparison to that of other architects of his time. Inside, the nave has an unusual centralized plan circled by alternating concave and convex cornices, leading to a dome decorated with linear arrays of stars and putti. The fusion of feverish baroque excesses with a rationalistic geometry is a excellent match for a church in an institution of higher learning.
He was also called "Bissone", by the place in which he was born.
In the summer of 1667, Borromini, suffering from nervous disorders and depression, committed suicide after the completion of the Falconieri chapel (the main chapel) in San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, where he was buried.
Francesco Borromini was featured on the 100 Swiss Franc banknote current in the 1980s.