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San Giovanni: north facade.
Re-erection of the obelisk on Saint Peter's Square in 1586.
Fountain of Moses in Rome.

Domenico Fontana (1543 – 28 June 1607) was a Swiss-born Italian architect of the late Renaissance.

He was born at Melide on the Lake Lugano and died at Naples. He went to Rome before the death of Michelangelo. He won the confidence of Cardinal Montalto, later Pope Sixtus V, who entrusted him in 1584 with the erection of the Cappella del Presepio (Chapel of the Manger) in Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, a powerful domical building over a Greek cross. It is a marvellously well-balanced structure, notwithstanding the profusion of detail and overloading of rich ornamentation, which in no way interferes with the main architectural scheme. It is crowned by a dome in the early style of S. Mario at Montepulciano.

For the same patron, he constructed the Palazzo Montalto near Santa Maria Maggiore, with its skilful distribution of masses and tied decorative scheme of reliefs and festoons, impressive because of the dexterity with which the artist adapted the plan to the site at his disposal. After his accession as Sixtus V, he appointed Fontana architect of St. Peter's, bestowing upon him, among other distinctions, the title of Knight of the Golden Spur. He added the lantern to the dome of St. Peter's and proposed the prolongation of the interior in a well-defined nave.

Of more importance were the alterations he made in Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano (c.1586), where he introduced into the loggia of the north facade an imposing double arcade of wide span and ample sweep, and probably added the two-story portico the Scala Santa. This predilection for arcades as essential features of an architectural scheme was brought out in the fountains designed by Domenico and his brother Giovanni, e.g. the Fontana dell'Acqua Paola, or the Fontana di Termini planned along the same lines.

Among profane buildings his strong restrained style, with its suggestion of the School of Vignola, is best exemplified in the Lateran Palace (begun in 1586), in which the vigorous application of sound structural principles and a power of co-ordination are undeniable, but also the utter lack of imagination and barren monotony of style. It was characteristic of him to remain satisfied with a single solution to an architectural problem, as shown in the fact that he reapplied the motif of the Lateran Palace in the later part of the Vatican containing the present papal residence, and in the additions to the Quirinal Palace.

Fontana also designed the transverse arms separating the courts of the Vatican. In 1586 he erected the 327 ton obelisk in the Square of St. Peter's. This feat of engineering took the concerted effort of 900 men, 75 horses and countless pulleys and meters of rope.

He gives a detailed account of it in Della transportatione dell'obelisco Vaticano e delle fabriche di Sisto V (Rome, 1590) [1] [2]. The astronomer Ignazio Danti is known to have assisted Fontana in this work.

Fontana also used his knowledge of statics, which aroused universal astonishment at the time, in the erection of three other ancient obelisks on the Piazza del Popolo, Piazza di S. Maria Maggiore, and Piazza di S. Giovanni in Laterano.

After his patron's death, he continued for some time in the service of his successor, Pope Clement VIII. Soon, however, dissatisfaction with his style, envy, and the charge that he had misappropriated public moneys, drove him to Naples where, in addition to designing canals, he erected the Palazzo Reale.

He died in 1607, and was buried in the church of Sant'Anna dei Lombardi.

Domenico's brother Giovanni Fontana was also an architect.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

DOMENICO FONTANA (1543-1607), Italian architect and mechanician, was born at Mili, a village on the Lake of Como, in 1 543. After a good training in mathematics, he went in 1563 to join his elder brother, then studying architecture at Rome.

He made rapid progress, and was taken into the service of Cardinal Montalto, for whom he erected a chapel in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore and the villa Negroni. When the cardinal's pension was stopped by the pope, Gregory XIII., Fontana volunteered to complete the works in hand at his own expense. The cardinal being soon after elected pope, under the name of Sixtus V., he immediately appointed Fontana his chief architect. Amongst the works executed by him were the Lateran palace, the palace of Monte Cavallo (the Quirinal), the Vatican library, &c. But the undertaking which brought Fontana the highest repute was the removal of the great Egyptian obelisk, which had been brought to Rome in the reign of Caligula, from the place where it lay in the circus of the Vatican. Its erection in front of St Peter's he accomplished in 1586. After the death of Sixtus V., charges were brought against Fontana of misappropriation of public moneys, and Clement VIII. dismissed him from his. post (1592). This appears to have been just in time to save the Colosseum from being converted by Fontana into a huge cloth factory, according to a project of Sixtus V. Fontana was then called to Naples, and accepted the appointment of architect to the viceroy, the count of Miranda. At Naples he built the royal palace, constructed several canals and projected a new harbour and bridge, which he did not live to execute. The only literary work left by him is his account of the removal of the obelisk (Rome, 1590). He died at Naples in 1607, and was honoured with a public funeral in the church of Santa Anna. His plan for a new harbour at Naples was carried out only after his death. His son Giulio Cesare succeeded him as royal architect in Naples, the university of that town being his best-known building.


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Simple English

[[File:|thumb|right|Domenico Fontana]] Domenico Fontana (1543 – June 28 1607) was a Swiss-born Italian architect of the late Renaissance.


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