JUBILEE CULTURAL ROUTES

St. Peter’s Basilica

You are along the route: THE ETERNAL CHALLENGE. BERNINI VERSUS BORROMINI

INTERNO BASILICA 2
Piazza San Pietro
www.vaticanstate.va
Every day. Winter (October-March): 07:00-18:00. Summer (April-September): 7:00-19:00. Free entry.

Foto ©Fabbrica di San Pietro in Vaticano

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In the long and centuries old building site of St. Peter’s Basilica, Bernini intervened several times to characterise the interior space of the church. The first work was the Baldachin (canopy) (1624-1633) commissioned by Pope Urban VIII Barberini and made possible thanks to a team of famous artists, including the young Borromini. The work marks the location of the body of Peter and turns the classic medieval ciborium into a processional canopy, brought into the church by angels and characterized by four spiral columns inspired by those of Solomon’s temple housing the bees, family coat of arms of the Pope.

Foto ©Fabbrica di San Pietro in Vaticano

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Simultaneously with the Canopy, Bernini also designed the arrangement of the four major pillars supporting the dome by Michelangelo and where he created niches for the most important relics of Christendom; the fragments of the True Cross of Empress Helena, mother of Constantine, the shroud of Veronica on which the face of Christ in impressed, the head of Andrew the Apostle and the spear of the Roman centurion Longinus who, after mortally wounding Jesus on the cross, was suddenly converted. Bernini, who theatrically rendered the inner turmoil of the soldier with drapery, personally supervised the statue of Longinus.

Foto ©Fabbrica di San Pietro in Vaticano

URBANO VIII

In 1628, Pope Urban VIII commissioned Bernini to make his tomb to be placed in the Basilica of St. Peter. The work, completed in 1647, is an impressive composition on several levels and combines marble, bronze and wood. The statue of the pope blessing characterises the top, while further down Charity and Justice flank the tomb from which, with theatrical effect, comes the genius of death who writes the epitaph of the pope.

Foto ©Fabbrica di San Pietro in Vaticano

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Between 1672 and 1678 Bernini also created the monument to Alexander VII (1672-1678) in St. Peter’s. The statue of the pope, this time kneeling in prayer, is placed on a base surrounded by four virtues and an extraordinary drape in red marble, raised to show the genius of death holding an hourglass, symbol of the transience of life.

Foto ©Fabbrica di San Pietro in Vaticano


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Commissioned by Pope Alexander VII, Bernini designed a new location for the relic of the wooden chair said to be used by St. Peter. The artist enclosed the chair in an extraordinary stage in the apse of the basilica, supported by four colossal statues of the Doctors of the Church and surmounted by a choir of angels and a golden halo encompassing a window in alabaster. The window recalls the divine inspiration of the popes through the image of the dove of the Holy Spirit and also allows the afternoon light to enter to spectacular effect, enhancing the entire complex.

Foto ©Fabbrica di San Pietro in Vaticano

How to get the step: St. Peter’s Basilica

Via del Governatorato, 00120 Città del Vaticano, Vatican City

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