(b. 1475, Caprese, d. 1564, Roma)

General view

Porta Pia, Rome

The intensely religious, reforming project of converting the tepidarium of the ancient Baths of Diocletian into the Carthusian church of Santa Maria degli Angeli went together with Michelangelo's most wilfully eccentric secular design, the Porta Pia. The function of this city gate was to terminate the vista from the Quirinal to the Aurelian walls down Pius IV's new street the Strada Pia, which was then lined with villas and gardens. In it Michelangelo combined elements of Medieval and Renaissance city-gate tradition with ideas derived from garden and festival architecture, as well as his own rich invention. Thus joky castellation, remnants of rustication and the Doric order are used as metaphors for strength, while the main portal evolved through a series of extraordinary drawings, superimposing and metamorphosing one solution over and into another.

The result is a compendium of all the most fantastic elements of Michelangelo's architectural vocabulary - broken pediments, swags, masks, displaced fragments of the orders, overlapping planes and juxtaposed façades and profiles.