Palladio and Rome

Palladio and Rome

The Pantheon, Rome elevation

British Architectural Library
Copyright: RIBA Library Photographs Collection

Palladio is celebrated as a northern Italian hero: the architect who rebuilt Vicenza and transformed the architecture of Venice and the Veneto.

However, his drawings, books and buildings reveal an obsession with the magnificent monuments of Rome, and the Roman remnants found in the Veneto and Croatia.

This is not surprising. Throughout the Renaissance of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, many Italians aimed to recreate and even surpass the glories of Ancient Rome in literature, art, architecture and politics.

Across Italy, Roman-inspired buildings began to appear. Palaces, churches and other public buildings featured columns, pediments and triumphal arches, inside and out. Modern architecture now deliberately tried to look ancient.

Printing had transformed access to information about Rome; people could now buy copies of Vitruvius. They could also enjoy Serlio's charming woodcuts, such as this image of the Pantheon from his Il Terzo Libro di Architettura (1544).

However, opportunities for understanding Roman architectural principles remained limited. It was Palladio who was to understand how to take advantage of this gap in the market: he did so by writing on Rome.