By Anne Leader and Martina Bollini

Carlo Maderno died on 31 January 1629 in Rome, where he had risen to become one of city’s most important architects. Born in today’s Ticino in 1556, the young Carlo, together with four of his brothers, moved to Rome in 1588 to assist their uncle, the well-known architect Domenico Fontana.

Since his first commission, the façade of Santa Susanna, Carlo Maderno established himself as a crucial link between the architectural style that dominated Rome in the second half of the 16th century, exemplified in the Church of Gesù, and the developments of the Italian Baroque. His work at Santa Susanna led to his appointment in 1603 as chief architect of St Peter’s. Carlo modified Michelangelo’s plans in order to extend the western arm into a nave. In this way, he transformed Michelangelo’s Greek-cross plan into a longitudinal one. Maderno also completed the building’s façade, which was much criticized for impairing the view of the dome.

Maderno worked on many of Rome’s major churches and palaces, such as Sant’Andrea della Valle, the Quirinal Palace, the Papal residence of Castel Gandolfo, and the Palazzo Barberini, but most of his works were completed by other architects. The only building completely designed by Maderno was Santa Maria della Vittoria (1608-20). He collaborated often and was a mentor to many, including the Baroque genius Francesco Borromini.

Reference: Patricia Waddy. “Maderno, Carlo.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press.

Further reading: Howard Hibbard, Carlo Maderno and Roman architecture, 1580-1630, 1971.

Façade, St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, 1603-26

Villa Aldobrandini (with Giovanni Fontana), Frascati, Italy, early 17th century; image copyright Jon Bogen

Palazzo del Quirinale, Rome, 17th century; image: Alan Cole

S. Susanna, Rome, 1597–1603; photo credit: Scala/Art Resource, NY

Plan for New St. Peter’s, 1603-25

Commemorative stamp for the architect’s 400th anniversary, 1956

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