Ar. Rakhi Mariam Johnson: Baroque church facades of Kerala

Ar. Rakhi Mariam Johnson

Baroque was a style that emerged from Italy during the late Renaissance period in the 16th century. The term Renaissance implies a conscious revival of the Greco-Roman style. Renaissance style places emphasis on symmetry, proportion, geometry and the regularity of parts. Baroque was a more stylistic version of Renaissance which took the Renaissance style into a highly decorated and theatrical variant like in the façade of the Gesu church in Rome. Missionaries who flocked to Kerala along with the Portuguese who colonized Kerala brought with them the Renaissance and Baroque architecture. 

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Baroque architectural style combined with the existing architecture of Kerala to create hybrids. Church facades were the major structures which were constructed in this hybrid variant of the Italian Baroque architecture. Just like the Church of Gesu in Rome, considered as the mother church, the facades of Kerala churches too were modelled with vertical pilaster- column combinations and horizontal continuous lines of entablatures.

This created multiple frames in the façade which was in turn filled with doorways, windows, ornamental frames, niches, medallions and sculptures. The focus was always on the central bay which contained the main entranceway topped by ornamented frames and sometimes niches with sculptures topping the central bay. The façade was always topped by a pediment like in the Renaissance churches of Europe, but the pediment was undulated much more than its European counterparts. Scroll decoration on either side of the pediment was an element that spread throughout Kerala. The ornamentation included fauna and flora of Kerala like the peacocks along with European acanthus leaf and cherubim decorations along with sculptures of saints.

The native audience reacted favourably to the novelty of the style. Here the art is not just a sum of European style and indigenous elements; rather it represents an international cultural convergence that happened in Kerala.

 Ar. Rakhi Mariam Johnson
Conservation Architect, City+Futures Design Collaborative, Alwaye
Member, National Scientific Committee on Shared & Built Heritage,
and Cultural Routes, ICOMOS-India.

പുതിയ ലക്കം ഡിസൈനര്‍ പ്ലസ് ബില്‍ഡര്‍ ഇപ്പോള്‍ വിപണിയില്‍.  ഡിജിറ്റല്‍ കോപ്പി സബ്‌സ്‌ക്രൈബ് ചെയ്യുന്നതിന് ഇവിടെ ക്ലിക്ക് ചെയ്യുക. പ്രിന്റഡ് മാസികയ്ക്കായി ഇവിടെ ക്ലിക്ക് ചെയ്യുക.

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