1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Fontana, Domenico

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FONTANA, DOMENICO (1543–1607), Italian architect and mechanician, was born at Mili, a village on the Lake of Como, in 1543. After a good training in mathematics, he went in 1563 to join his elder brother, then studying architecture at Rome. He made rapid progress, and was taken into the service of Cardinal Montalto, for whom he erected a chapel in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore and the villa Negroni. When the cardinal’s pension was stopped by the pope, Gregory XIII., Fontana volunteered to complete the works in hand at his own expense. The cardinal being soon after elected pope, under the name of Sixtus V., he immediately appointed Fontana his chief architect. Amongst the works executed by him were the Lateran palace, the palace of Monte Cavallo (the Quirinal), the Vatican library, &c. But the undertaking which brought Fontana the highest repute was the removal of the great Egyptian obelisk, which had been brought to Rome in the reign of Caligula, from the place where it lay in the circus of the Vatican. Its erection in front of St Peter’s he accomplished in 1586. After the death of Sixtus V., charges were brought against Fontana of misappropriation of public moneys, and Clement VIII. dismissed him from his post (1592). This appears to have been just in time to save the Colosseum from being converted by Fontana into a huge cloth factory, according to a project of Sixtus V. Fontana was then called to Naples, and accepted the appointment of architect to the viceroy, the count of Miranda. At Naples he built the royal palace, constructed several canals and projected a new harbour and bridge, which he did not live to execute. The only literary work left by him is his account of the removal of the obelisk (Rome, 1590). He died at Naples in 1607, and was honoured with a public funeral in the church of Santa Anna. His plan for a new harbour at Naples was carried out only after his death. His son Giulio Cesare succeeded him as royal architect in Naples, the university of that town being his best-known building.