The Palazzo della Sapienza, the House of Knowledge, was constructed to be the headquarters of the University of Rome, the Studium Urbis, founded by Boniface VIII in 1303.
Giacomo della Porta completed the building in the early 17th century, making use of a previous project by Pirro Logorio.
In 1642, Borromini ingeniously finished it off when he incorporated the extraordinary Tempietto di Sant'Ivo
, one of the most significant works of Roman baroque. He put the concave fašade of his church inside the courtyard and added the convex drum of the dome, which almost dances with its segments and six lobes inside which the convex and the concave shapes alternate yet again.
On top of the dome, the lantern twists into a helicoidal spire which ends with a tall pinnacle surmounted by a cross. The geometrical forms Borromini chose, hexagonal like the cells in a beehive, refer to the bees on the Barberini coat of arms and the spiral, the bee stinger.
Borromini was forced to take personal responsibility for the building for 15 years in case the spiral collapsed or caused damage.
These buildings remained the seat of the University of Rome until the construction of the new Citta' Universitaria in 1935. Today the Italian state archives are housed here and they hold the documentation relating to the papal state from the 9th to the 19th century.