Juan Bautista Villalpando

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For other uses, see Villalpando (disambiguation).

Juan Bautista Villalpando (also Villalpandus, or Villalpanda, born 1552 in Córdoba, Spain—died 22 May 1608 in Rome) was a Spanish Jesuit scholar, mathematician, and architect.


Villalpando became a Jesuit in 1575, and for the Society he designed buildings such as the Cathedral in Baeza and San Hermenegildo Church in Seville.[1] He studied geometry and architecture with Juan de Herrera, the architect of Philip II of Spain. After ordination, he specialised in Exegesis of the Old Testament.

After first publishing his Ezechielem Explanationes, or Commentary on Ezekiel,[2] with Jerónimo del Prado in 1596 he was accused of heresy and faced an Inquisition, subsequently he was found innocent. Also in 1596, Villalpando travelled to Rome where he published further volumes in 1604, and died in 1608.[3]


A detail of one of Villalpando's representations of Solomon's Temple, cropped from a larger map of Jerusalem, note that he made other more intricate renderings focusing solely on the temple

Villalpando's major work as a scholar was a commentary on the prophet Ezekiel, which was published with the support of Philip II. This text included imaginative reconstructions of Solomon's Temple and depictions of Jerusalem, which were renowned and influential. They were based on the vision of the prophet Ezekiel, and appeared in his Ezechielem Explanationes. They inspired many European illustrators and were circulated among the master builders of the 17th century.

His reconstructed drawings were based on the assumption that the buildings of Jerusalem were designed using the laws of geometry, and they were drawn in parallel or orthographic projection, which is a form of image Villalpando likened to God's vision.[4] Furthermore, they proposed an original link between the classical orders and Solomon's Temple. After the Renaissance republication of Vitruvius' De architectura, which had reported that the origins of the orders lay in the Architecture of ancient Greece, Villalpando reinterpreted them to provide a higher authority. His reading was that they had been derived from the architecture of Solomon's Temple, thus reconciling the Bible with the antique architecture described in Vitruvius' text, and finding classical architecture's origins in God.[5]

The illustrations brought an Inquisitorial investigation against Villalpando, claiming a misinterpretation of the holy writing, which was however, decided in his favour. In the opinion of some art historians, Villalpando's illustrations of Solomon's temple had an influence on numerous monastery constructions of the baroque era, as well as on the gridded arrangements of urban planning.[6] Villalpando's imagery was used also in design of Protestant churches and synagogues, at least in the 17th century.[7] Geometrical designs of facilities with quadratic inner courtyards and risalits are also found in the built form of El Escorial: Villalpando was a disciple of Juan de Herrera, architect of El Escorial.[8]

Some criticisms of Villalpando's work on Solomon's Temple bring up points with relevance to both architecture and philosophy. An architectural criticism is the exaggerated size of the substructure of the Temple in his designs.[9] Incidentally, this feature of an enormous buttressed base was subsequently used by Fischer von Erlach in his Entwurf einer historischen Architektur, an early history of architecture, figuring prominently in the early pages.[10] A second related criticism is the lack of an archaeological basis, and apart from the detail of the renderings, a lack of grounding in realism.[11] A textual criticism focuses on his failure to use Jewish sources distinct from the Hebrew Bible, such as the writings of Josephus, the Talmud, and the writings of Maimonides.[12]

Villalpando also wrote theoretical tracts on gravity, geometry and architecture, occupying himself above all with conveying the geometrical principles of constructions. The great scholar of physics Isaac Newton made use of Villalpando's works in his studies of architecture.[13]


  1. ^ James Stevens Curl. A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. Oxford University Press. 2006. ISBN 0-19-280630-0
  2. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Juan Bautista Villalpandus". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 
  3. ^ Bernd Evers, Christoph Thoenes, et al. Architectural Theory from the Renaissance to the Present. Taschen: 2003. Page 366. ISBN 3-8228-1699-X
  4. ^ Alberto Pérez Gómez, Louise Pelletier. Architectural Representation and the Perspective Hinge. MIT Press. 1997. Page 150. ISBN 0-262-66113-6
  5. ^ Joseph Rykwert. The Dancing Column: On Order in Architecture. MIT Press. 1996:27. ISBN 0-262-68101-3
  6. ^ George L. Hersey. Architecture and Geometry in the Age of the Baroque. University of Chicago Press. 2000:114. ISBN 0-226-32784-1
  7. ^ Sergey R. Kravtsov, "Juan Buatista Villalpando and Sacred Architecture in the Seventeenth Century," Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 3(2005), 312-339.
  8. ^ Alberto Pérez-Gómez. Juan Bautista Villalpando's Divine Model in Architectural Theory. In Alberto Pérez-Gómez, Stephen Parcell. Chora 3: Intervals in the Philosophy of Architecture. McGill-Queen's Press. 1999. ISBN 0-7735-1712-X
  9. ^ Matt Goldish. Judaism in the Theology of Sir Isaac Newton. Springer. 1998. Page 88. ISBN 0-7923-4996-2
  10. ^ Evers-Thoenes. Page 577.
  11. ^ Gómez-Pelletier. Page 151.
  12. ^ Goldish. Page 88.
  13. ^ Goldish. Page 91.

Further reading[edit]

  • Hanno-Walter Kruft. A History of Architectural Theory: From Vitruvius to the Present. Princeton Architectural Press. 1996. ISBN 1-56898-010-8
  • Gregor Martin Lechner: '"Villalpandos Tempelrekonstruktion in Beziehung zu barocker Klosterarchitektur", in: Piel, Friedrich / Traeger, Jörg (ed.), Festschrift Wolfgang Braunfels, Tübingen 1977, 223-237
  • Harry Francis Mallgrave. Architectural Theory - Volume I: An Anthology from Vitruvius to 1870. Blackwell Publishing. 2005. ISBN 1-4051-0258-6
  • Joseph Rykwert. On Adam's House in Paradise The Idea of the Primitive Hut in Architectural History. Museum of Modern Art. 1972. ISBN 0-87070-512-1

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