Francesco Grimaldi, Theatine Architect

Grimaldi portrait 400th Anniversary of His Death, 1 August 1613

Four hundred years ago today, Francesco Grimaldi died in Naples in the Theatine house of Santi Apostoli, which he had designed along with its adjacent church. Grimaldi (born 1543 in Oppido Lucano) was the first significant Theatine priest-architect. He provided the original plans for the Theatines’ Sant’Andrea della Valle, Rome; built the order’s Sant’Irene, Lecce; as well as the Cappella del Tesoro di San Gennaro at the Duomo in Naples, and numerous churches for the Theatines and other patrons in that city.

His career parallels those of first-generation priest-architects from the other counter-reformational orders, including men such as the Jesuit Giuseppe Valeriano (1542-1596) or the Barnabite Lorenzo Binago (1554-1629). These architects gave architectural form to their orders’ institutional identities during their period of rapid expansion and intensive church construction between the late Cinquecento and early Seicento.

Although recent studies* have reassessed some traditional attributions to Grimaldi, his importance for counter-reformational architecture and the architectural identity of the Theatine order remains undisputed four centuries after his death.

Pâris SS_Apostoli_Napoli_Besançon

Pierre-Adrien Pâris, Plan de la maison ou monastère des Théatins de laquelle dépend l’église des Saints-Apôtres à Naples, late eighteenth century.
Image: Mémoire vive: patrimoine numérisé de Besançon

Top: Portrait of Francesco Grimaldi from Domenico Martuscelli, Niccolò Morelli di Gregorio, and Pasquale Panvini, eds., Biografia degli uomini illustri del regno di Napoli, ornata de loro rispettivi ritratti, vol. 8 ([Napoli]: N. Gervasi, 1822): unpaginated.
Image: Google Books

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*Andrea Masciantonio, “Francesco Grimaldi e Alessandro Albertini nella genesi progettuale del complesso di Sant’Andrea della Valle a Roma (1589-1608). Il disegno 23 del Fondo Panciatichi 178 della Biblioteca Nazionale di Firenze,” Römische Historische Mitteilungen 47 (2005): 123-169; Fulvio Lenzo, Architettura e antichitá a Napoli dal XV al XVIII secolo. Colonne del tempio dei Dioscuri e la chiesa di San Paolo Maggiore (Rome: L’Erma di Bretschneider, 2011). For a complete biography of Grimaldi, see the entry by Gaetana Cantone in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani 59 (2003).