Northern Italy in the Seventeenth Century
In the cities of northern and central Italy -- Milan, Turin, Bologna, Venice, and Florence -- distinctive architectural styles sprang up from indigenous traditions that usually were independent of Roman influence. Indeed Rome was as often the beneficiary as it was the source of innovative ideas that became popular throughout Italy. During the first third of the century, Milan and surrounding Lombardy rivalled the papal city as a prolific architectural center. It should not be forgotten, either, that Domenico Fontana, Carlo Maderno, Francesco Borromini, and Carlo Fontana were all Lombards who went to Rome with their minds already set on architecture.
The first significant Milanese building of the seventeenth century is the church of S. Alessandro, begun in 1602 and completed ca. 1710, mostly according to the original plan. It was designed by a Barnabite monk, Lorenzo Binago ( 1554-1629), for his own order, which had been founded in the mid-sixteenth century during the Catholic Counter-Reformation. The spirit of the Counter-Reformation was especially strong in Milan, since one of the movement's leading figure's, Charles Borromeo, was archbishop of the city from 1560 until his death in 1584. Even before his canonization in 1610, Borromeo's Instructiones Fabricae Ecclesiasticae were instrumental in applying Tridentine decrees to the practice of architecture. As we shall see, the author's preference for "la forma di croce allungata" (the elongated cross) over "la forma rotonda" (the circular plan) was interpreted differently in Milan than in Rome. Earlier Roman architects almost invariably employed the Latin Cross for major churches, but in Milan,