San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane

San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane (29)

San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane is the first great work by Borromini, after having been apprentice to Maderno. It was the Trinitarians, a Spanish order that paid Muslims to rescue Christian hostages, that entrusted this work to Borromini. 

It is odd that this church is situated precisely at the end of the street where Sant’Andrea al Quirinale stands, the work of Bernini, Borromini’s great rival. Moreover, San Carlo seems to be the exact opposite to the ideas and most opulent work of Bernini. This is clear if you just look at the plain whiteness of its interior. 

Although dedicated to Saint Charles Borromeo, the church is a grand monument in honour of Borromini. Observe the sublime beauty of the cupola, totally constructed of geometric motifs, and the brilliant way of organising the small spaces. It is a construction with a great deal of light and life. 

Additionally, on the walls of the sacristy there is a portrait of Borromini himself. The artist committed suicide in 1667 and in the crypt there is a small chapel that was built to keep his remains, but which is empty for the moment. 

The changing interior rhythm is also present outside, the façade being the artist’s final work. In fact, Borromini could not see his work finished, having dedicated twenty years of his life to it. 

Once outside, go to the Cruce delle Quattro Fontane, designed by Sixtus V at the junction between the Strada Pia and the Strada Felice. Here you can see the four fountains dating from the 16th century. They are four statues of two river gods, Tiber and Arno, and two virtues that represent loyalty and strength, Diana and Juno.

Also from the centre of this street junction, you can see three of the obelisks of Rome, since this is the highest point of the Quirinale Hill. 

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