e sorgo, e I lievi nugoletti, e il primo

degli augelli sussuro, e l’aura fresca,

e le ridenti piaggi benedico

Leopardi, la vita solitaria


The Italian architect Francesco Borromini was born in Bissone – on 25.09.1599. 02.08.1667 he committed suicide in Rome.

As a mason in the workshops of the San Pietro, he worked under the other building master, Bernini. Afterwards he went on with his own designs and compete with his master’s.

Where Bernini is overstated baroque, Borromini produced the understated version. The almost entirely white interior of his San Ivo, with a floor of grey-white tiles, is astonishingly sober – certainly so after you have visited a Bernini church shortly before.

Bernini is giving you an overdose, his structures are in Marshal McLuhan’s terms hot. You can merely experience them by looking away, by only concentrating on parts of them – a most curious experience of what according to the baroque code is supposed to be a… Gesamtkunstwerk.

Borromini’s buildings, on the other hand, are of an absorbing insanity – cool media so to say. They do not pounce you, are not overpowering the visitor. They beckon like a Siren – at the risk of drowning in them, even becoming mad yourself.

Borromini also invented the San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, the subject of the first of my Borromonini Verse – a church on the Via del Quirinale, distanced only ninety yards from Bernini’s Sant’ Andrea al Quirinale. Its ceiling is of a frivolous schizophrenia.

His San Ivo – a structure situated on a perfect symmetry axis – is hidden away in the grand city of Rome, in such a way that it is only to be found by way of a map in one’s hand.


A spiraling lantern decorates its centre – a unique touch, as delicate as it is intriguing. Up there, I saw our sun standing off side.

Hopefully, the Borromini Verse indicate a parti pris – and why not, suggest my Wahlverwandtschaft with that man. This would not plead for my mental sanity. It was never the intention.

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Author: rjsiersk

Sierksma was born in Friesland, a 'county' in the northern part of the Netherlands with its own language which he does not speak and with an obstinate population to which he both belongs and does not belong. A retired Professor of Social Philosophy and Aesthetics, as a Harkness fellow he taught at Rutgers and Berkeley Universities in the USA, and at GUAmsterdam and TUDelft in the Netherlands. In 1991 he was awarded his PhD from Leiden University on the subject of 'Surveillance and Task: Labour Discipline between Utilitarianism and Pragmatism'. His books include Minima Memoria (1993), Lost View (2002 with Jan van Geest), and Litter Scent (2013). He has published poems and articles in Te Elfder Ure, Nynade, Oasis and the Architectural Annual. Half the year he lives in Haarlem, the other half he spends in la France Profonde, living ‘in his own words’ as the house out there was bought with the winnings from his essay Eternal Sin, written for the ECI Essay Prize (1993). In this blog, Sierksma's Sequences, written in English, he is peeping round his own and other people’s perspectives. Not easily satisfied with answers nor with questions, he turns his wry wit to a number of philosophical and historical issues. His aim in writing: to make parts of the world light up in his perspective - not my will, thine! Not being a thief, he has no cook, one wife, some children, one lover and three cats.

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