Famous for designing and building the iconic Belvedere Courtyard in the Vatican, Donato Bramante was rather an unassuming and humble architect. He was an innovator and visionary of his time that he dedicated his brilliance and life to the advancement of High Renaissance. Needless to say, Bramante was one of the most sought-after architects of the Pope during the 16th century.
Bramante is a well-remembered and celebrated Italian artist because of his major contributions to the Romans, particularly. He was the man behind the magnificent The Tempietto (1502), Palazzo Caprini (1510), St. Peter’s Basilica (1503) and the Cortile del Belvedere (1506).
Donato di Pascuccio d’Antonio, Bramante’s real name, was born in Fermignano in 1444. His birthplace is believed to be located close to the now referred to as Duchy of Urbino, a small and hilly town. Little is known about the architect’s childhood years but historians said that his family earned their living from farming.
Popular artists like Piero della Francesca and Mantegna were the first few to influence Bramante to pursue his artistic career. The Urbino native was said to be interested in learning the rules of perspective deeply, as a technique that he’ll be using for years. He started doing sketches of buildings and later on developed his skills in architecture.
In 1474, the adult Bramante decided to move to Milan to continue developing his style, technique and knowledge in architecture. Milan made a perfect training ground for him because the city was nothing but filled with well-designed buildings, most of which is reminiscent of Gothic style. He officially began his professional career by designing and building different churches all over the city.
Consequently, Bramante’s works were an eye candy for Duke Ludovico Sforza. And so, Sforza became Bramante’s art patron in Milan and had been working closely with him for several years. He was practically Sforza’s personal architect and his main tasks include designing, restoring and building over-the-top edifices.
Under the patronage of Sforza, Bramante had been able to build Palazzo Caprini, the Santa Maria delle Grazie and pathways of Sant’ Ambrogio. He remained loyal to his patron that in 1499, he followed Sforza to Rome as the patron tried to flee from the French invaders. There in Rome, Bramante did some masterpieces that included him in the list of the best-of-the-best High Renaissance artists of Italy.
Although Sforza and Bramante drifted apart somehow while they stayed in Rome, this separation allowed him to find new patrons such as Cardinal Della Rovere. Bramante’s association with Rovere, who became Pope Julius II eventually, earned him another highly influential art patron. It was not simply by association (as in by name) though because under the commissioned works of the Pope for him, he was given the opportunity to solidly establish his name in the field of architecture.
In 1503, Bramante was contracted to re-design St. Peter’s Basilica. It was a heavy load for him as it was considered to be the most extravagant and groundbreaking architectural feat of the 16th century Europe. In fact, the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica took him a lifetime to build (at least over 50% completed), although he died before the Basilica finally became available for use.
In 1506, Bramante busied himself with designing the Belvedere Courtyard. Although he didn’t much time to see his brainchild turn into a complete, beautiful and whole version, the thought of leaving a legacy like this to his fellow-artists satisfied him and in peace. The courtyard is composed of a parade of terraces that are all interconnected from one another, to reach the Vatican Palace in the end.
Another highlight of Bramante’s career was when he led the construction of The Tempietto of San Pietro in 1510. It’s an additional feature to the courtyard of Mantorio’s San Pietro where St. Peter was believed to be crucified up-side down. So, this work is yet another iconic piece of art for the Roman Catholics.
The Tempietto was the very definition of High Renaissance art during that time. And with that, Bramante was practically the father of the said movement, pioneering how harmony, striking balance and simplicity with meteoric proportions should be done all at once. The Tempietto is a genuine work of art by a genius, with Tuscan columns, a dome and pillars as the primary components.
Palazzo Caprini was the last that Bramante executed before but it was eventually destroyed later in 1510. Fortunately, it was restored by Raphael, which later on became a source of inspiration to palace architects. Bramante undoubtedly had a very successful career and a legacy that the likes of Michelangelo and Raphael lived by. Bramante died on March 11, 1514 although his remains stayed forever in the Old St. Peter’s Church in Vatican City.