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the increasing scarcity and abstraction of iconography) may have expressed a new intellectualization of the mysteries of faith, along with a denunciation of what the late eighteenth century called 'superstition'.

One can conclude these general remarks with a final observation. From all that precedes - the dynamism of this specific building sector, the involvement of both civil and ecclesiastical authorities, the vitality of religious feeling - it follows that church construction remained, just as it had been in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, one of the privileged areas of architectural creativity. No important architect of the age was uninterested in such construction to one degree or another. Despite the historiographical tradition that argues for a progressive secularization of institutions, societies, and cultures, it is impossible to maintain that there was one sphere of secular art and another separate sphere for the sacred. If there was one place during the early modern period where the whole of society assembled, it was undoubtedly in the church; and, by the sametoken, if there was one artistic project which brought together artists in substantial numbers (aside from the construction of palaces, theatres, and opera houses), then without a doubt it was also the church. Bearing this in mind, one can understand why the construction of places of worship so appealed to architects of the period; and by corollary, one can also comprehend the enormous diversity of stylistic designs.

The flowering of styles

The first decades of the seventeenth century were characterized by an extreme distrust of the exuberance that derived from the style of Michelangelo, a strict selection from among the various ornamental forms, and an assertion of a taste for simple volumes. Certain countries, including Great Britain, had never experienced Mannerism. Inigo Jones acclimatized Britain to the Euclidean forms of Palladio's art: Saint Paul's Church in Covent Garden (1631-33) displays a vast Corinthian portico with a triangular tympanum in the style of a Tuscan temple. But Palladio's influence was most significant in Venice, as shown in the dome and facades of Santa Maria della Salute, built by Baldassare Longhena at the entrance to the Grand Canal (1631-51). In Rome, Carlo Maderno continued the construction of Saint Peter's, and produced the nave and facade (1607-12) in largely classical style with touches of Mannerist detail.

By contrast, Francesco Borromini was inspired both by Michelangelo's heritage and the spirit of originality. In 1638-42, he built the Oratory for the congregation of Saint Philip Neri according to an original plan with a curved rather than a rectilinear facade that undulated between the concave and the

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