MANSART, François
(b. 1598, Paris, d. 1666, Paris)

Exterior view

begun 1645
Val-de-Grâce, Paris

This dome structure was built to give thanks for the birth of an heir to the throne. It was begun by Mansart and continued by Jacques Lemercier, but completed only in 1710 by Pierre Le Muet and Gabriel Le Duc. Here Roman architecture provided the basic inspiration, but Mansart was able to provide a renewed impetus towards the use of monumental forms.

Despite modifications made by successive architects, the overall design remains faithful to Mansart's original plan. The façade owes its strength to the play of Corinthian columns around the portico, to the two triangular pediments, and to the originality of the tabernacle framing the upper-storey window. To this was added a surprising turret at each of the four corners of the square plinth. The dome is adorned with oculi at its base, and sits on a high drum ringed by pilasters with emphatic entablatures.

Such a church would have been unthinkable had it not been for the examples set by Cortona and Domenico Fontana; yet the decorative inventiveness and overall arrangement attest to a mastery of design and skill of execution. The dome would inspire others that would become the masterpieces of the following era.

The picture shows the façade of the church.