What Are Characteristics of the Baroque Style?

The central characteristic of all baroque architecture is a quality called dynamism, or the sense of movement in the flow of a structure and its ornamentation. Aside from movement, examples of Baroque architecture also frequently share complex designs that many consider both intense and aesthetically extravagant.

The Baroque period lasted roughly a century and is commonly divided into early (1600-1625), middle (1625-1675) and late (1675-1725) periods. The style itself is best represented through the richly sculpted surfaces of the Baroque's three-dimensional sculpted classicism, a departure from the more two-dimensional planar classicism preferred by Renaissance architects. Additionally, whereas Renaissance builders commonly designed their creations in deliberately contrasting sections, Baroque architects strove to design buildings that appeared whole and continuous unto themselves. In keeping with the Baroque taste for the extravagant, designers frequently festooned buildings with densely clustered items intended to capture attention, with details such as columns, blind arches, statues, relief sculptures, curved walls and mouldings. Taken together, these elements exhibit the broader Baroque concern for blending themes of multiplicity with order, infinitude with control. Some of the most common sites of Baroque architecture were churches. St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, for example, was completed by Baroque designers. Additionally, vast palaces and museums such as Versailles and the Louvre are the products of Baroque architecture. Although the most full-blown examples of the Baroque aesthetic are typically found in Italy and France, Northern Europe experienced a more muted encounter with the style, a compromise aesthetic sometimes called classical-Baroque or restrained Baroque.