"Maderno's modest innovations . . . were like a boulder slowly detaching itself from the mountainside; in a matter of stylistic minutes there was an avalanche." 1 Francesco Borromini was without question at the center of that architectural upheaval. Distantly related to Maderno and Domenico Fontana, Borromini travelled the familiar route of architects from northern Italy, where he was born in Bissone in 1599, to Rome, where he arrived in 1619. He began his career as a stone-carver and draughtsman in Maderno's shop and was employed during the 1620s at the Palazzo Barberini, S. Andrea della Valle, and St. Peter's. Often during this period he found himself working side by side with the precocious Bernini, who was the avowed favorite of Urban VIII and the papal circle. It was fortunate for Borromini that Bernini was more occupied with sculpture than architecture early in his career, and their actual competition for commissions was kept to a minimum.
Borromini was notoriously difficult and ill-tempered. 2 He dressed eccentrically, was given to fits of hypochondria and melancholy, and was possessed by an irrational jealousy of Bernini above all of his other contemporaries. His bouts with depression finally became so unbearable that in 1667 he ended his life by impaling himself on a sword. It is remarkable that his career prospered as much as it did in light of his irksome personal traits, but eccentric behavior was often viewed as the stamp of genius in this saturnine age. Critics have occasionally been tempted to interpret his architecture as a dramatic expression of intense inner turmoil, but Borromini's work is not to by understood by