Alberti’s Sant’ Andrea


Sant’Andrea in Mantua is the last of Alberti’s churches yet it is the most complete, and the one in which his intentions seem to be clearest. It takes the form of a Latin cross, but evidence suggests that Alberti had intended a basilican plan. Alberti specified that his proposal was for a church of the type “known among the ancients as the Etruscan,” but it is not planned like an Etruscan temple. The description in Alberti’s treatise adhered precisely to the account of Vitruvius only in the presence of the unusual proportion of 5:6. In spite of numerous attempts to discover the proportional system in Sant’Andrea, the present study is the first to have found the presence of the proportion 5:6 in the completed building. This paper demonstrates the systematic strategy that Alberti employed to bring every detail of the building into a coherent spatial framework related to the perceiving body, not as an abstract exercise, but as an enveloping web of meaning.

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