La Prévalence de la forme sur le Fond

Encadré Par Jacques Fol

In this Thesis it is proposed that Architecture and Art played an essential role in the Schism of the Catholic Church in the 16th century.

It feeds essentially off the work of Manfredo Tafuri, and of Bruschi as its main sources, whilst trying to give a defining role to Architecture as the harbinger of a new image for the Church, and the consequences this propelled.

The hypothesis put forwards considers the central position held by architects of the start of the 16th century (most notably Bramante and Michel-Angelo) in the creation of a new relationship in between content and form. 

By the 15th century, the Roman Catholic Church is in complete disarray. Having finally ended the Avignon cessation, it needs to reclaim Rome and reinstate itself as a power above that of the new Kings and Emperors of Europe. In Italy at the time, neo-feudalism is rampant. The Church penniless and broken can hardly claim control beyond the Vatican’s borders.

At this time, Interest in Antiquity (mostly the Romans) has become obsession and has borne Humanism.

Humanism with all its illustrious power and growing international renown somehow remain formless, to a certain degree. The Church uses this as an opportunity to transform the ideals of Humanism, and its renown as a tool for its own transformation and rebirth. 

The Catholic church uses the exposure and renewed interest in the Roman Empire as a springboard to reinvent its image; quite rapidly bringing its image ever closer to that of the Roman Empire and away from its Christian roots.

The relationship between Bramante and Jules II is quite telling in the evolution of this image and how it was built up over several projects using the forms of antiquity as vessels for the Catholic Church’s agenda.

Bramante’s work slowly frays away from his humanist root, opting for an illusion, theatrics, spectacle, and representation, over the ideals of humanism (rationality, universalism . . . etc.). 

The Belvedere, El Tempietto, and St Peter’s all reveal elements of the strategy put into place. 

The reaction to the new image is incendiary, because of how efficacious it was.

The Church, after its transformation was perceived as an Empire. An Empire that had strayed from its spiritual roots and indulged in the sins itself condemns. The new image of the church was a triumph to the point of its near downfall. 

This resounding success; with such dire consequences reveals a very new paradigm of “form over content,’ which shall be used time and time again as the miracle cure to any crisis; past or present.

The Catholic Church in response to a crisis put into motion by the image manipulation decides to use “image” as its solution; decidedly looking to renew its link with Christian symbolism and iconography as can be seen in the later work of Michel-Angelo and the stark Architecture of the counter-reformation.

In this Thesis we interest ourselves with the architecture and events leading up to the Schism, and those that are an immediate consequence. Trying to link one Architecture and or Aesthetic choice to a direct palpable reaction. 

These Jules Salmon AAP ENSAPM 2018