Juan Bautista Villalpando

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Juan Bautista Villalpando also Villalpandus, or Villalpanda (1552 – 22 May 1608) was a Spanish priest of Sephardic ancestry, a member of the Jesuits, a scholar, mathematician, and architect.


Villalpando was born in Córdoba, Spain, in 1552. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1575 and for the Society he designed several buildings including 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 the exegesis of the Old Testament.

He published his Ezechielem Explanationes, or Commentary on Ezekiel,[2] with Jerónimo del Prado in 1596. He was accused of heresy, but a review of his beliefs and writings by the Spanish Inquisition found him innocent. That same year he travelled to Rome where he published additional volumes in 1604. He died there on 22 May 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, published with the support of King Philip II. This text included imaginative reconstructions of Solomon's Temple and depictions of Jerusalem, which were renowned and influential. He based them on the vision of the prophet Ezekiel and published them in his Ezechielem Explanationes. They inspired many European illustrators and were circulated among the master builders of the 17th century.

His 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] Contradicting the theory developed by Vitruvius in De architectura, which sought to establish that the origins of the orders lay in the Architecture of ancient Greece, Villalpando argued that there was an original link between the classical orders and Solomon's Temple and that the classical orders had their origin in specifications detailed by God.[5]

The Inquisition's interest in Villalpando centered on his illustrations as possible misinterpretations of scripture. In the opinion of some art historians, Villalpando's illustrations of Solomon's temple influenced numerous monastery constructions of the baroque era, as well as on the grids schemes of urban planners.[6] Villalpando's imagery was used in the design of Protestant churches and synagogues in the 17th century.[7]

Villalpando was a disciple of Juan de Herrera, architect of El Escorial, whose designs for that complex included quadratic inner courtyards and risalits.[8]

Some criticisms of Villalpando's work on Solomon's Temple bring up points with relevance to both architecture and philosophy.

Criticisms of Villalpando reconstruction of the Temple include: that the sub-structure of the Temple in his designs is exaggerated,[9][a] that his work lacks any archaeological basis or grounding in realism,[4] that he failed to use Jewish sources apart from the Hebrew Bible such as the writings of Josephus, the Talmud, and the writings of Maimonides.[9]

Villalpando also wrote theoretical tracts on gravity, geometry and architecture, occupying himself above all with conveying the geometrical principles of constructions. Isaac Newton made use of Villalpando's works in his studies of architecture.[9]


  1. ^ This feature of an enormous buttressed base was later used by Fischer von Erlach in his Entwurf einer historischen Architektur, an early history of architecture, figuring prominently in its early pages.[3]


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

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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