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How is the difference between French Baroque architecture and Italian Baroque architecture a reflection of the political system of the seventeenth century?

Since France was the dominant power in Europe in the seventeenth century, while Italy was not yet a country, French secular architecture tended to be grander and more monumental. The most outstanding example is the Palace of Versailles. However, Italian religious architecture, such as St. Peter's Basilica, was similarly awe-inspiring, demonstrating the power and wealth of the Roman Catholic Church. Italian palaces, however, were more modest.

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The great political difference between France and Italy in the seventeenth century was that France was the dominant country in Europe, whereas Italy was not yet a country at all. This difference is clearly reflected in the secular architecture of the two countries. Perhaps the most famous piece of seventeenth-century architecture in France, and certainly the most overtly political, is the Palace of Versailles. For Louis XIV, the palace served two main political purposes. First, it was a magnificent symbol of French supremacy. Second, it kept the greatest noblemen in France where he could see them, rather than building power bases in the provinces. The immense size of the palace was necessary for both purposes. It was less a house for the king than a complex community within a public monument.

The only works of seventeenth-century baroque architecture in Italy which approach the Palace of Versailles in grandeur are the churches of the period, most notably Saint Peter's Basilica, which was completed in 1626, and mixes baroque with renaissance styles. The basilica took more than 100 years to build and is on an enormous scale, like Versailles, making a similar statement about the wealth and power of the Roman Catholic Church. However, since the Pope was the only Italian ruler who wielded power on this scale, the secular architecture of the period in Italy is more modest, often confined within city blocks like the Palazzo Litta in Milan.

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