The symbolic content of Borromini's S. Ivo alla Sapienza is examined in the light of documents of the period, particularly the construction documents in the Archivio di Stato in Rome. This material makes a significant contribution toward resolving questions related to iconographic elements in the groundplan, spiral tower, and interior stucco decoration of the chapel. The determining factors for the symbolic meaning of the imagery of S. Ivo are shown to be the iconography of the saint, the ceremonial functions of the chapel, and the changing patronage of three popes. S. Ivo serves as a case study for Borromini's introduction of symbolic elements into the fabric and decoration of his works, demonstrating that the nature of that imagery-seen in its 17th-century context-is not esoteric and that our view of Borromini as a speculative thinker in architecture is exaggerated and anachronistic.

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