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The Age of the Giants: Bramante, Raphael, and Michelangelo in Renaissance Rome

Instructor: Prof. Paolo Alei [see profile]
Disciplines: Art History, Architecture

This course covers the art and architecture of Rome from the return of the pope from Avignon around 1420 to the Council of Trent in 1545 with particular attention to the renovated papal majesty and its visual expression. Successors of Peter, heirs of the emperors, and yet akin with many other biblical and classical figures, the Renaissance popes created the basis for an ideology which had an immediate impact on the physical structure of the city. The rediscovery of ancient statuary, the classical topoi of pictorial description (ekphrasis), the concepts of architectural symmetry, axiality and focus, and the revival of the rhetoric of “praise and blame” became ideal means for the restoration of Christendom’s capital. Artists such as Masolino, Masaccio, Fra Angelico, Bramante, Raphael and Michelangelo came to Rome, at the service of popes, cardinals and nobles, for the renovatio urbis, the monumental project which aimed at restoring the city as a universal mirror of the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian civilizations.

This course has several Friday or Saturday site visits.


  • a paper (8-10 pages)
  • a midterm 
  • a final exam