ANTONELLI, Alessandro
(b. 1798, Ghemme, d. 1788, Maggiora)

Exterior view

San Gaudenzio, Novara

Among the forward-looking developments in the first half of the 19th century was the emancipation of engineering-led building, resulting from the establishment of technical high schools. Whereas in England and France iron structures were being built, in Italy it was the daring stone buildings of Alessandro Antonelli that caused a sensation. His idea was to exploit the given material to the utmost. One of his spectacular works of this kind is the crossing tower of Pellegrino Tibaldi's church of San Gaudenzio in Novara, under construction since the late 16th century.

The dizzying height of the slender structure (121 m) was made feasible by the insertion of concealed iron stays. The use of a tholos with a circular colonnade, the retracted upper story and the slender, ribbed dome call to mind the model of Soufflot's church of Sainte-Genevieve in Paris, but the scheme gains an effect of progressive height from its telescoped layering.