Skip to comments.ART APPRECIATION THREAD--Vatican tour (the magnificent Bernini altar)
Posted on 04/08/2005 7:50:39 AM PDT by Liz
View of the Cathedra Petri through the Baldacchino, both by Gianlorenzo Bernini
The Cross and Apse
Baldacchino: Gianlorenzo Bernini, 1624-33, gilt bronze, ht. c.100 feet, San Pietro (St. Peter's), Rome.
As part of the decoration of Saint Peter's in Rome by Pope Urban VIII (1568-1644) [Maffeo Barberini], Gianlorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) received the commission for the design and construction of a structure that would be placed over the tomb of St. Peter in the crossing of the newly rebuilt basilica.
The resulting structure, known as the Baldacchino, is a combination of ideas that stem from earlier attempts at distinguishing the high altar and the tomb.
Many of the design elements such as the spiral column establish a link to the basilica of Old Saint Peter's and to the Temple in Jerusalem.
It is important to realize that Bernini early on in his career to the time of his death had always some connection to the decoration of Saint Peter's. It is his overall view of what the basilica should look like that makes Bernini's designs the essence of the Baroque style.
The size of the Baldacchino is approximately 100 feet tall. However, when compared with earlier models, it was not that much taller. Depending on where the structure was placed, either in the apse or over the tomb, and if it was part of a screen separating the choir from the nave, the earlier versions were just as large.
The Baldacchino is constructed from bronze, much of it stolen from the Pantheon (portico) and from the dome of St. Peter's (ribs). The height of the Baldacchino is supported by the use of bronze, rather than the perishable materials used in earlier versions.
The spiral columns of the Baldacchino are imitations of the ancient spiral shafts that were salvaged from the Old St. Peters and earlier basilica decoration. The original columns were moved to decorate the reliquary niches in the four corners of the crossing. In Bernini's version of the column, instead of alternating fluted and floral sections, he has placed the fluted section at the bottom and the remaining sections are foliage, consisting of the Barberini laurels.
1 Medieval folklore stated that the bodies of St. Peter and St. Paul were divided, half of each is buried in St. Peter's basilica and the other halves are buried at St. Paul's Outside the Walls (Lavin, 1) Atop the four columns that support the canopy of the Baldacchino stand four angels, over life-size. The affect that the angels produce suggests that they are what is supporting the canopy and not the columns (Lavin, 12).
The crown is comprised of four curved ribs that support a globe and cross. Records indicate that the globe and cross were not in the original plans by Bernini. Bernini's concept was to have the Resurrected Christ aloft the crown, as it would have worked in his entire plan of the crossing decoration. Between the angels, there are two putti that hold the papal tiara and St. Peter's keys, and two more putti hold a sword and book, symbols of St. Paul.1
Throughout the decorative elements on the Baldacchino are the symbols of Urban VIII, sun and bees, as well as the laurel of the Barberini family (mentioned above).
Bernini managed to fuse together parts of earlier ciboria and baldachin constructed in St. Peters, while adding elements that were indicative of his style.
Gianlorenzo Bernini, 1656-66, gilt bronze, marble, stucco, glass, San Pietro, Rome
The crowning achievement of Bernini's design for the decoration of St. Peter's can be found in his later work Cathedra Petri (Chair of St. Peter) located in the apse of the basilica. This large reliquary was designed to house the original wooden chair of St. Peter's. In ecclesiastic tradition, Bishops always have their seats in the chief church of their district (cathedra=cathedral), and the Pope has his seat in St. John's in Lateran. Symbolically, the chair of St. Peter recognizes that St. Peter was the first pope and that San Pietro is and forever shall be his seat.
The Cathedra Petri is similar to Bernini's other works, like the Ecstasy of St. Theresa, in that it is not a single piece to be viewed by itself. Rather, the Cathedra Petri should be viewed in conjunction with the Baldacchino and the four pier sculptures.
Right: Detail, St. Augustine, gilt bronze, located proper right of the sculpture. Represents one of the Doctors of the church from the West. Far Right: Detail, St. Athanasius, gilt bronze, located inside proper left of the sculpture. Represents one of the four Doctors of the church from the East.
The base of the sculpture is made of colored marble. The Fathers or Doctors of the Church (Sts. Ambrose, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, and Augustine) and the Chair are made of bronze, partly gilded. The original chair is housed in the bronze chair that is flanked by the Fathers or Doctors of the Church. The chair appears to hover by divine will.
Above the chair is what is commonly known as the Glory. This is a combination of stucco putti and angels surrounding a stained glass window that is the actual light source for the apse. Bernini was disappointed with the original window and the glare that it created, so he incorporated it into the final product of Cathedra Petri. The window and dove act as the light and word of God and the Holy Spirit. Bernini diffused the light by using colored glass and reduced the harsh glare he so detested.
Details, The Glory, stucco and stained glass. The overall effect of the Cathedra Petri is awe-inspiring; rays of light, made in stucco, jut out from the real source of light. So much emotion is worked into the piece by the expression on the Doctors' faces and the movement of the putti and angels. Also located on the Cathedra Petri are bas relief of Washing of the Feet and The Handing Over of the Keys to St. Peter, created by Bernini. On the back side is a bas relief regarding Christ's decree to St. Peter, "watch over my flock."
Bernini reduced the size of the Cathedra Petri so that it could be viewed in its entirety through the Baldacchino. In that view, Bernini emphasized the importance of the relics contained in each and the foundation of the Church.
Created by Gwen M. McKinney, firstname.lastname@example.org, 13 April 2003
Of all the astonishingly beautiful artwork in the Vatican, Bernini's altar takes one's breath away.
I went to the Vatican this summer. I disturbed the worshippers with the loud "clunk" as my jaw hit the floor as I entered St. Peters.
I've been lucky enough to visit the Vatican twice, and I'd go back tomorrow. It is simply a wonder.
Thank you. :)
Awe inspiring. Thanks.
I know what you mean---grin. Someone complained all one does touring Italy is look at churches. Well, that's where all the great art and architecture is.
The Ufizzi Gallery is also a jaw-dropper----was originally designed to host the archives and administrative offices of the state of Florence. In 1737 Anna Maria Ludovica de Medici, the last member of this family (1-2 were Popes) that mentored great artists to decorate churches, converted it into a Museum. The 45 rooms and galleries hold some of the most famous art in the world.
However, even sitting in the piazza sipping cappucino, one is surrounded by art.
So glad you liked the thread. Go to the source for more text and pics.
Enthusiastic second to that.
At the Ufizzi-----The Venus........
Oh, yeah. Very nice.
LOTS of time and hard work to make such great artwork.
Hah! You are a mind reader. I remember rounding a corner and there it was. I was simply speechless.
A good time to visit St Peters is as soon as it opens up in the morning. This is around 7 am I think. This is before the tourist hordes descend on the Vatican since they are all still waking up or having breakfast. YYou have to get up early to do so but it is quite a different place to view almost empty. When I visited there were a few small masses taking place in corners of St. Peters but that was it. Also seeing the rays of the sun enter the basilica through the windows of the front entry is another highlight.
The postage stamp clip does not do it justice---it is a huge work of art------awesome in its conception and execution.
-----thread brings back so many memorable moments-----
An art and wine tour of Italy, my idea of paradise.
No one cared about this thread but I thought it interesting:
Pope John Paul II's Staff Was Work of Santa Fe Sculptor http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1378567/posts
Michaelangelo Buonarroti was born near Florence, Italy in 1495. He died at the age of 89 years old in 1564. He was a famous artist and sculptor of the Renaissance period. His paintings were realistic and he used dark color. He painted life like paintings of people, fresco painting, and statues. His first love was sculpture. He learned "fresco painting" in wet plaster from Master Ghirlandaio. Famous Works: His most famous painting was the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. He painted many scenes from the Bible. It took him four years to complete his painting. His most famous sculpture was David. The statue shows David ready to fight the giant Goliath. This statue is made out of marble and it is 16 feet 10 inches tall.
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