(active 1494-1518)

Exterior view

Santa Maria della Consolazione, Todi

The construction of the pilgrimage church of Santa Maria della Consolazione at Todi was begun in 1508. The church was long thought to have been based on a model by Bramante himself, although the only architect's name recorded is that of the otherwise obscure Cola da Caprarola. Cola is recorded on 7 October 1508 as receiving payment for the work on Santa Maria della Consolazione at Todi, where payments to him are recorded until 1512. These describe him first as 'muratore' and later as 'maestro di fabbrica', but not until 1510 is he referred to as architect.

The church is centrally planned and can be regarded as a simplified version of Donato Bramante's designs for St Peter's, Rome, on which work had begun in 1506. A contract for 1509 specifies only three apses, leaving uncertainty as to whether the final form would be centralized or longitudinal, as happened with St Peter's.

The church is an architectural exercise in the use of basic geometrical forms. It consists of a large square space bordered by large semicircular chapels. These chapels are surmounted by half-domes, while a circular dome rises above the central space. In this combination of shapes the church is the closest in form to the writings of Alberti and the drawings of Leonardo and Bramante. It stands on an isolated elevated site, and the lucid grouping of its geometrical forms is continued upwards through the exterior elevations. The clarity of the design remains uncluttered, with the stairs and sacristy accommodated within the walls, thus retaining the pure simplicity of the internal and external shape.

The clarity of the planning is heightened by the sparse decoration of the interior. Pietra serena, set against plain white walls, is employed to emphasize the geometrical units and to articulate the window and side altar aedicules along with the ribs of the domes. It seems likely, however, that the design for the church was by Bramante with Cola in charge of the building work, as the site architect. He may have been responsible for some of the internal detailing, which shows a knowledge of the centralized church of Santa Maria del Calcinaio (begun 1484) at Cortona by Francesco di Giorgio Martini.

View the ground plan and section of the building.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.