Palladio and Rome

Visiting Rome

Details of the orders and entablatures, Baths of Caracalla, the Pantheon, and the Temple of Hadrian, Rome

Andrea Palladio (c. 1540)
Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings Collection

Palladio first visited Rome in 1541 with the Renaissance scholar Giangiorgio Trissino. Captivated by the city's ancient architecture, he made five visits, his last being in 1554. 

He appears to have only designed one work in Rome, an elaborate altarpiece, or baldacchino, in the Church of Santo Spirito (circa 1546). His trips to the city were motivated by study.

Rome's architecture must have been a great shock to Palladio. Nowhere else could Ancient Roman remains be found in such great variety and on such a scale.

What's more, thanks to the ambitions of various Renaissance Popes, the city was being transformed, most obviously with the new St Peter's - the biggest building site in Europe. How different to the buildings of Venice and the Veneto, where architecture was rooted in the Byzantine and Gothic styles.

Palladio drew extensively while in Rome, surveying Roman temples, forums and rambling bath complexes. He also studied his peers' modern-day recreations of them, such as Bramante's Tempietto.

Undoubtedly, it is the variety and richness of this legacy that he concentrates on with this drawing, dating from the 1540s. Decorative details used in imperial buildings are hastily surveyed, including the Pantheon, the Baths of Caracalla and the Temple of Hadrian. The details captured, these studies went on to inform his own design work back in the Veneto.

This and many other drawings survive; 350 of them are held in the RIBA Library Drawings Collections.