Sant' Andrea, Mantua

(beg. 1470)
   The church commissioned from Leon Battista Alberti by Ludovico Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, to house the relic of the holy blood of Christ brought to Mantua by St. Longinus after the Crucifixion. Alberti believed that the traditional Gothic church design with nave and aisles was impractical because the piers of the nave arcade blocked the full view of the main altar. Therefore, at Sant' Andrea he provided a longitudinal, aisleless structure. Alberti added a series of oculi (round openings) to provide focus to the main altar through light, and a coffered barrel vault to lead the visitor's eyes in that direction. Instead of a nave arcade to support the vault, Alberti added massive piers that alternate with arched entrances to the side chapels. The design was inspired by the Roman baths of Diocletian and the Basilica of Constantine Alberti studied in Rome. In the exterior, the architect used a triumphal arch motif, symbol of the triumph of Christianity over paganism, yet instead of capping the façade with a rectilinear attic, as was done in ancient Roman examples, he used a pediment. He also applied the colossal order, his own invention inspired by the massive scale of Roman prototypes. Alberti's inventive design became widely used in the 16th and 17th centuries, particularly in the building of Jesuit churches, among them Il Gesù (1568-1584) in Rome.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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