Shapes and geometries underlying the religious architecture in the 18th century

Sebastiano Giuliano, Rita Valenti


In Eastern Sicily , the 18th century was deeply characterized by an artistic renovation linked to the rebuilding fervor following  the catastrophic events which hit the NOTO VALLEY at the end of the 17th century. It was also characterized by the new needs of the counterreformation spirit.

As far as this period is concerned, the research work tends to develop a new methodology of critical review on the works that, both on small and big scales, have characterized the inner and outer spaces of religious buildings, their altars and their facades.

These works testify the circulation of cultural shapes and models, in both regional and national areas, in a dimension which widely overflows the local area and all its limited elaborations.

It is difficult to diachronically read these works which are apart from important cultural centres, because there are very few historical documents which can testify the architectural design.

The research work is based on a double analysis which, taking into account the deeply symbolic elements of the religious architectural expression, traces, on one hand the possible references to the literature of that period in order to identify its models; on the other hand it tries to find out connections among the typical elements of the surveyed area through a geometrical investigation.

The aim is to promote a more and more effective preserving and developing action  of a less famous religious heritage. Thanks to the collection of cultural information, it is possible to gather valuable elements, on both small and big scales, in less famous areas which are apart from the most popular tracks.

For this reason the first part of this study focuses its attention on the development of an analysis system which makes it possible to read in a syncretic way, the inevitable contaminations with the literature dating back to the Renaissance, which can be found in the religious architecture of the Noto Valley during that peculiar, cultural period of great renovation, known as the” Sicilian Baroque”.

The second part of this research makes use of a very accurate graphic analysis aiming at understanding the sizing and proportioning methodologies which were used in the design phase.

Sizes and proportions are essential to understand the work in its overall shape; they also make comparisons possible, regardless the sculptural and decorative apparatus and its architectural shape.

The discovery  of the underlying geometrical and reference patterns allows the researchers to make some hypothesis on the proportions of the project, even if there are no drawings.; the main goal is to understand the origin of the project so as to identify the simple pattern to which all probable similarities or differences can be referred. Therefore the geometrical analysis is the way through which it is possible to study the design method of valuable works in Eastern Sicily.

As altars are integral parts of churches, "actual architectures inside the architecture", expression of the complexity and the conformative dynamism of the baroque architecture, this research is based on these valuable elements, whose intermingling of shapes, functions and meanings, leads, from a figurative point of view, to some constructions which are very similar to facades.

If the project design is a graphic-historical document telling about the geometrical apparatus of the architectural element in its formal and symbolic relationships, the survey carried out through advanced technologies is fundamental in the backwards survey.

The comparison with the works of the age and the graphic analysis of the architectures on both small and big scales, tries to reveal and give back all those relationships which are at the origin of the design project and which have granted their conveyance to the different dimensional levels and their disclosure in  relatively distant areas.


altari; geometrie; rilievo; analisi grafica

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Copyright (c) 2015 Sebastiano Giuliano, Rita Valenti

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Registration at L'Aquila Law Court no 3/15 on 29th June, 2015.
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