description – technic – opinions
The concept that could possibly encapsulate the whole meaning of Camillo Agrippa’s Trattato di Camillo Agrippa di Trasportar la Guglia in su la Piazza di San Pietro is “research”. The book, published in Rome in 1583, is a treatise that exhaustively explains the author’s study on how to transport a spire in Saint Peter’s square.
The treatise is divided into two parts. The first one begins with a short introduction in which the author speaks directly to Giacomo Boncompagni, general of the church state, Duke of Sora and Marquis of Vignola. Agrippa explains in these pages the honourable intent behind his treatise. The assignment of transporting the spire was firstly given to Antonio da Sangallo and Michelangelo Buonarroti. After his arrival in Rome, in 1535, the responsibility was handed to Camillo Agrippa.
The introduction is followed by a detailed description of the spire, including a list of all the possible measurements. There is also a study of the path’s obliquity, from the departure to the arrival point. Agrippa explains what kind of machine should be used for the transport and which characteristics are required. He also specifies what could be the mistakes that must be avoided, and provides a technical analysis. He explains for instance that rope cannot be used since a part of it getting wet because of rain would mean an unbalanced weight which would eventually lead to a breakdown. His solution is then to use metal chains.
Agrippa proceeds to explain his strategy down to the last technical detail. After the transport of the spire to Saint Peter’s square, he figures out a way to lift it with a system of levers and chains, studied in depth also thanks to calculations. At the end of the chapter the author defines his strategy as the easiest, safest and briefest way he found to accomplish his duty.
The second part of the treatise is a dialogue between Fabrizio and Agapito Fossani about Agrippa’s plan. After an exchange of opinions on the subject, always treated in a very detailed and specific way, Camillo Agrippa enters the dialogue. The author considers their opinions, sometimes conflicting, as a way to further develop his research. Indeed, the dialogue reveals some flaws in Agrippa’s plan, such as the lack of solution in case of imprecise positioning of the spire. At the same time, the dialogue allows good solutions for the problems to come up.