Baroque & Rococo: 17th – 18th Centuries

Saints Peter and Paul Church in Krakow, Poland

Baroque is a highly decorated style of architecture that grew out of the Counter-Reformation, as the Catholic Church was using many methods to re-attract the faithful to church, including appealing to them via art and architecture.   Rococo is referred to as “Late-Baroque” or “Light-Baroque”.

The Baroque style viewed structural elements as platforms for decoration and to encourage a feeling of constant movement through a unified, fused whole where no individual part was completely independent.  Baroque architecture uses curves instead of the straight lines of classic architecture which are readily apparent in the s-curves on the facades of many Baroque churches, as well as the interiors.  Baroque style makes use of ornaments and elements that sought to establish a dramatic sense – especially by contrasting light and dark; and using an array of rich surface treatments, twisting elements, and gilded statuary. Architects used bright colors and illusory, vividly painted ceilings that were intended as an intermingling with Heaven above.

The Rococo style is similar to the original Baroque but more subtle with prominent decorative elements such as curves, scrolls and shells.  The style derived its name from “Rocaille” which is a type of art design, originated in France, using shell and coral-like forms.  Gentle, flowing movement characterizes the style, with nothing fixed in its homogenous space, designed so that all parts are important without an overwhelming climax (although the main altar retains the most prominent position).  Classical forms are transfigured and dissolved into decoration throughout the buildings.  Rococo is considered to be elegant, refined and delicate with paler color schemes than its Baroque predecessor.  The interior of Rococo churches is the focus and exteriors are similar to Baroque structures.  Although the style was developed in France, the most prominent examples of Rococo churches are in Germany.

Example illustrated: BaroqueSaints Peter and Paul Church in Krakow, Poland

See image with the curved pediment over the front door and curved scroll edges on the upper façade creating a symbolic triumphant arch; as well as decorative capitals atop the columns.

Another Baroque example: Church of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary in Olomouc, Czech Republic.

Rococo Examples: Asam Church (Asamkirche) in Munich, Germany (see image below).

Another Rococo example: Wies Church in Steingaden, Germany.

Asam Church (Asamkirche) in Munich, Germany

See the colorful and elaborate façade with usage of curves, scrolls and shells evident in the Rococo style.

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