In this Roman square there are two churches by the Baroque architect Carlo Rainaldi (1611 – 1691). These are the churches of Monte Santo and Santa María de los Milagros.
In reality, this architect was entrusted with the task of the entire urban transformation of the square, in which an urban functionality had to be unified and on the other hand its sacred character represented by these two churches, which from a distance seem the same, but nevertheless, they are different although they complement each other.
Piazza del Popolo in Rome
Let's start with the church of Monte Santo. This is the temple on the left.
Its plan is a longitudinal oval, on whose long sides there are three chapels separated by pillars. While the chancel is very deep. It is an interior with a very unitary presentation, since in the upper part there is an entablature that unites all the columns. In a way, it is an element that not only unites, but also directs the faithful towards the presbytery.
Therefore, as in other temples of the Italian Baroque, the architects are able to create central plans, like an oval here, but give them a sense that indicates direction with a longitudinal axis, something that a priori is paradoxical.
And the other church, the one on the right, is the church of Santa María de los Milagros.Both in this work and in the previous one, Rainaldi had the collaboration of Carlo Fontana, a fairly classicist architect.
Here we are in the circular church. And its interior is quite different, compared to the church of Monte Santo. In some way it is a more rainaldeque temple, while the previous one would be more classic and Fontana's hand would be seen more.
On the other hand, Rainaldi creates two different axes on that circular plan. One transverse and the other longitudinal, leaving a space with a very complex conception. These variants are marked with different elements.
For example, in a circular plan he is able to integrate a series of three chapels, and with them he proposes a play of colors, because in those chapels he uses very light tones in materials and elements such as the large pillars that separates them, while in the upper area place an entablature marking the horizontality with a very dark color, marking directionality towards the presbytery.
But there are more games of duality throughout the church, as if the architect constantly wants to play and will present us with one thing but also the opposite.
That is to say, Rainaldi with these two churches of the Piazza del Popolo, similar but different, he single-handedly presents to us various paths of Baroque architecture Italian.