Giocondo, Fra ca. 1433–1515 Italian Architect, Engineer, and Humanist Scholar

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Giocondo, Fra
ca. 1433–1515
Italian architect, engineer,
and humanist scholar

Fra Giocondo was an accomplished architect and engineer, renowned for his skill in designing complex structures and waterworks. He also had a great interest in classical* culture and created an illustrated edition of On Architecture (1511), by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius. To accompany the text, Giocondo produced 136 woodcuts* illustrating fine points of ancient design and relating them to Renaissance building techniques. The work had a great influence on many architects of the time.

Born in Verona, Italy, Fra Giocondo joined a religious order and gained a reputation for his knowledge of structural design and the culture of ancient Greece and Rome. By 1489 he was working in the kingdom of Naples, where he met many humanists*, including the poet Jacopo Sannazaro. In Naples, Fra Giocondo designed buildings, advised on military projects, and examined ancient Roman ruins for his patrons*. In about 1495, he went to the court of Charles VIII of France and became royal architect in charge of major buildings, bridges, and waterworks. While in Paris, Giocondo also acted as secretary to one of the diplomats who represented the Holy Roman Emperor* Maximilian I.

In 1506 Fra Giocondo accepted an appointment as architect to the government of Venice. He provided Venetians with technical expertise on projects concerning bridges, canals, and rivers, as well as the reclamation of land in the lagoon surrounding the city. Giocondo also worked as a military engineer, overseeing the construction of fortifications for territory controlled by Venice, both inland and on islands in the Mediterranean Sea.

In 1513 Pope Leo X appointed Fra Giocondo and Donato Bramante as architects of the new church of St. Peter in Rome. When Bramante died the following year, the pope chose the artist Raphael to replace him. Raphael and Fra Giocondo may have worked together on the initial designs for the church, but Fra Giocondo died before the project was completed. While Fra Giocondo's accomplishments as an architect and engineer were significant, his illustrated edition of Vitruvius's work is considered his greatest achievement.

(See alsoArchitecture; Books and Manuscripts; Fortifications. )

* classical

in the tradition of ancient Greece and Rome

* woodcut

print made from a block of wood with an image carved into it

* humanist

Renaissance expert in the humanities (the languages, literature, history, and speech and writing techniques of ancient Greece and Rome)

* patron

supporter or financial sponsor of an artist or writer

* Holy Roman Emperor

ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, a political body in central Europe composed of several states that existed until 1806

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Giocondo, Fra ca. 1433–1515 Italian Architect, Engineer, and Humanist Scholar

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