Professor Tim Blanning opens his analysis of the ideas that shaped what we now know as 'the baroque' at the Karlskirche ('Charles Church') in Vienna. Commissioned by the Emperor Charles VI in 1713 and designed by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, this astonishing building was completed in 1737. It exemplifies the mature baroque style with its spectacular frescoes, sumptuous decoration, magnificent dome and striking facade. Built as a votive offering following the last great plague epidemic in Vienna in 1713, it was dedicated to Charles Borromeo, a saint famous for his healing of plague sufferers. It has a fierce self-confidence, inviting worshippers not to quiet contemplation but to total immersion in the drama and movement of its decorations and illustration.
With the assistance of a team of experts, Tim then traces the development of baroque culture from its origins in seventeenth century Italy to its triumphant colonisation of most of the rest of Europe, and indeed many parts of the world, from Peru to Macau. What architects, sculptors and painters as diverse as Bernini, Caravaggio and Rubens had in common is at the heart of the programme's search for the essence of the Baroque. This was more than a style, it was a whole culture, manifesting itself in the grandest of grand palaces such as Versailles but also in decoration, dress and even the material objects of common people.
Producer: Tom Alban.