Francesco Castelli, named Borromini, was born in 1599 in Bissone on Lake Lugano in what is today
In the Milan cathedral workshop Borromini was trained as a stone mason and got familiar with a vivid Gothic tradition, while the formal vocabulary of Late Antiquity, Lombardian Romanesque style and Italian Renaissance, which were to become the essential characteristics of his entire work, were conveyed by other Milanese buildings.
After his apprenticeship in Milan, Borromini went to Rome, where, as from 1619, he worked in the workshop of St. Peter's (fabbrica di S.Pietro), which was headed by his uncle Carlo Maderno. At that time, Borromini was preoccupied with studying Antiquity and the architectural work of Michelangelo, who was a big example to him.
Together with Maderno, his most influential teacher and mentor, Borromini worked in the Palazzo Barberini. After Maderno's death, Gian Lorenzo Bernini took over as the person in charge of the building and in addition was appointed Architect of St. Peter's. A few years later, Borromini and Bernini separated for good. A life-long rivalry began.
Under the pontificate of Innocent X (1644-55) Borromini finally succeeded in replacing Bernini as the leading architect in Rome. But already the succeeding Pope was again more favourably disposed towards Borromini's most important competitor: under the pontifiacte of Alexander VII (1655-1667) he was not entrusted with any new commissions. Thus, Borromini devoted the last years of his life to the completion of unfinished building projects, i.e. he completed the interiors of S. Ivo and S. Giovanni in Laterano and built the still missing facade of his first work, San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane.
An important concern of his was the preparation of a compilation of
engravings called Opus Architectonicum which was meant to hand down his works,
sketches, designs, and plans to future generations.
In the summer of 1667, Borromini suffered from nervous disorders and depression, which ultimately led to his voluntary death.