Before the Jesuits: The Lateran Canons in Italy
independent scholar, Munich, Germany
Many religious orders of the Counter Reformation are known for their centrally directed building policies which led to supra-regional architectural traditions characteristic of their orders. Scholars have hitherto largely overlooked that this way of organising architectural programmes goes back to older orders like the Lateran Canons, one of the most influential of the religious orders in the Italian Renaissance. This paper accordingly examines the significance of the Lateran Canons for the later architecture of the counter- reformation orders in Italy.
The paper's first part analyzes the centrally directed approval procedures for architectural projects of the Canons and their effect on the building types of monastic complexes and churches. It demonstrates that in the first half of the 16th century the institution of the order emerges as patron and promotes a characteristic monastic architecture peculiar to the order. The most famous examples are S. Maria della Pace in Rome by Donato Bramante and S. Maria della Caritŗ in Venice by Andrea Palladio. Unlike the later practice of many counter-reformational orders the Canons did not engage their own architects who worked centrally for all the local foundations. Instead, each monastery engaged prominent artists working locally, who respected the typical "Lateran architectural style" but at the same time incorporated local elements.
The second part demonstrates how the Lateran Canons in reaction to increasing rivalry from the new religious orders first devoted themselves intensively to church building in order to establish their architectural identity to the outside world, i.e. to the faithful. Their churches were intended to be quite different from those of the counter-reformational orders and to evoke the older tradition of the Canons.