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The Basilica of Saint Peter, Rome

Survey of the key stages of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome from the Circus of Nero to the creation of the Vatican City

David Chandler

on 22 July 2013

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Transcript of The Basilica of Saint Peter, Rome

Bramante; plan of 1506
Saint Peter's Rome; view of the 4th century
basilica from a sixteenth century fresco. The structure was made possible by the reuse of many Roman columns found nearby...
Here is the 1506 project medal for a centrally planned basilica proposed by Julius II :- a radical redesign and demolition which remained highly controversial...
because nobody was permitted to demolish a Christian altar!
Leonardo da Vinci and fellow HUMANIST architects planned the "perfect" Classical temple based on the proportions of man. This was because the Old Testament Book of Genesis had stated that God created Man in His own image. Surely God would be best pleased with this type of design......?
after all, Nature also preferred these CENTRAL
PLANS rather than LATIN CROSS plans.
Bees make hexagonal honeycomb cells.....and birds make round nests........
but by the 1450s the old basilica was
in need of some serious attention. Rome is prone
to earthquakes and cracks had appeared in some
of the major walls......
Pope Julius II
asked Donato Bramante, an architect
to design the mother church and shrine of St Peter.....
Bramante had just finished the tiny little church of San Satiro, Milan.

It contains 5 different central plans all inside one building
so here at last is Bramante's great plan for St. Peter's of 1506 as far as can be imagined. It isn't hard to see a diamond set within a square. An equal armed cross is clear as is an inner square.
Raphael's fresco of the great philosophers painted between 1510 and 1511 reveals portraits of the architects Bramante, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and their patrons. The painted architecture reflects the massive vaults of the colossal new church, half built and without its dome....

Leonardo da Vinci strides through the centre of the building
After 1602, Pope Clement VIII gave the job to Carlo Maderno, who radically changed the design of Michelangelo and returned the church plan to the familiar and traditional LATIN CROSS......

Now it was able to accommodate a much larger congregation and made it more suited to processions. This remains a popular solution to this day.

We have come full circle......
Around 160AD
The 15th Century
A new basilica was needed.
The greatest architects, engineers and painters of the later 1400s all contributed to the great competition to design a new church.
What an opportunity to create
"PERFECTION" - that would prove once and for all that modern Italy was superior to ancient Rome.............
By the 4th Century, with the legalisation of the cult of Jesus Christ a massive basilica, a double aisled hall church, was built to allow for the long processions of the faithful to reach the apostle's tomb and enter into the community services. It was a LATIN CROSS plan:-
Saint Peter (San Pietro) and Saint Paul (San Paolo) are both linked to Rome and both were given special churches by the Emperor Constantine in the 4th century AD
so in the 1546 Michelangelo took over and inherited a number of very expensive false starts that had to be demolished.
His final plan for the church was astonishing in its simplicity....
he also designed the dome and lantern
which was built after his death.
The architect's model still survives......
The cult of Saint Paul became massive with thousands of pilgrims flocking to the huge church built in his name
but it was the enigmatic reputation of the
disciple Peter who was to have the greatest celebrity
a small town of tombs (a necropolis) still exists beneath the pavement of St Peter's. It was here that the early Christians came to revere the remains of the apostle and other early martyrs......
because for his choice of martyrdom he insisted on being crucified .........
upside down
but Bramante died in 1514
leaving the whole project
in plan form... new Popes and new
projects competed for
The ancient Roman Circus of Nero; basically a
giant chariot racing track also served as a place of mass execution of criminals and traitors. Peter the Apostle was crucified between two of the famous marker posts.
In this plan diagram its position against the 4th century church plan is clear
Antonio da Sangallo; the great model of 1539 - four years to assemble and at enormous cost - surely this would be the last word.....?
the great unbuilt basilica
dominated the Roman skyline. Pilgrims still
wanted to visit the shrine of the saint
and there would be no
permission to demolish
the old 4th century
nave and atrium (courtyard)
for another century......
A: Michelangelo Buonarroti
......nobody could deny his great Sixtine Chapel triumph from 1511.....
these perfect centrally planned temples would become the crowning glory of the clean "ideal city". Utopia could be achieved if only the architects and patrons could agree...
Bramante's plan of 1506
and then in 1502 a Humanist patron with serious cash resources and Papal powers to command really got the point.........

hint; M....
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