The Mascarino Staircase: the Architectural Masterpiece of the 1500s

The Mascarino Staircase is considered to be one of the pinnacles of Roman architecture of the second half of the 1500s

Illuminazione Scala del Mascarino (2020) by Aldolfo GuzziniQuirinale Palace

The staircase, constructed in 1583—1584 to a design by the architect Ottaviano Mascarino, is located within the Palazzina Gregoriana (Gregorian Villa), the oldest core of the palace, commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII for spending the summer months in the cool Quirinal hills.

It has a spiral shape, and extends from the cellars to the attic.

At the time, its function was to allow formal access to the upper floors of the Palazzina, where the pope had private and audience rooms.

With the enlargement of the Quirinal Palace, the function of official entry to the main floor passed to the Staircase of Honor; the Mascarino Staircase retained its use as access to the residential rooms.

Mascarino Staircase (1583/1584) by Ottaviano MascarinoQuirinale Palace

The elliptical-shaped plan adopted by Mascarino enabled the space occupied by the staircase to be reduced, while at the same time obtaining a favorable and original aesthetic result.

Mascarino Staircase (1583/1584) by Ottaviano MascarinoQuirinale Palace

The pairs of travertine columns follow the winding lay-out of the stairs, supporting and embellishing them.

The staircase is crowned by a skylight, also elliptical, through which natural light filters into the central space, creating picturesque chiaroscuro effects with the staircase half-light.

Mascarino Staircase (1583/1584) by Ottaviano MascarinoQuirinale Palace

The construction of a staircase on an elliptical base was a test of particular technical and design ability for the time; also at that time, the end of the 1600s, the Quirinal Palace staircase was considered to be Mascarino's greatest work.

Its fame was such that Francesco Borromini constructed a faithful replica of it within the Barberini Palace in around 1630.

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