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St Peter's Basilica

St Peter was martyred during the reign of Emperor Nero in 64AD, and his body was buried with other Christian martyrs. A church was built over the remains in the 4th century, and this church was replaced by the present St. Peter's Basilica in the 16th century. Half way through the 120 years that it took to build, Michaelangelo, at the age of 70, was asked to supervise the design and construction, and the church as it stands today is as he envisaged it. Bernini spent fifty years from 1626 in working on embellishments to the inside, especially the throne of St. Peters, which is the focus of the apse, and the strangely beautiful baldacchino which acts as a canopy fot the high altar. The baldacchino seems almost too bulky, with its four columns of twisted bronze modelled after similar columns in the Temple of Jerusalem. In reality a bulky baldacchino was needed to fill the huge empty space under the central dome, and be a centrepiece which drew the eyes as soon as one entered the nave area. There are about 100 tombs within the church. As well as the tomb of St Peter ( below the high altar) there are those of scores of Popes, and deposed Catholic royalty such as the Stuarts (Bonnie Prince Charles and his kin) It was a scorcher of a day when I joined the line which snaked its way around St. Peters square. I stuck with a bunch of Chinese and took about an hour to get through to the security checks where they xrayed the bags. Once inside the first impression was this place is built for giants, it was such a big interior space. First I followed the crowds to the chapel where the exquisite Michaelangelo carving of the Pieta is held behind glass. it reminded me of being in the Louvre and trying to look at and take a photo of the Mona Lisa over the backs of twenty other people all trying to do the same. Same as, same as. This was the first of what I considered to be the three treasures held in this place. The second was the unbelievably strange looking baldacchino which dominated the nave. At least it was only bronze and not gold. At least it didn't have cherubs and angels all over it (only bronze leaves and bees I am told). It was to my eyes a unique piece of understated sculpture, and a wonderful piece of theatre. The third was the amazing bronze statue of St. Peter enthroned holding the keys of heaven, which was in a prominent position in the church, and had a constant line in front waiting to touch it. It has been dated around the fifth century, and over the centuries pilgrims have just about worn away the left foot of the statue. It was only a statue, but it had a remarkable presence in the church. The rest was all pomp and circumstance (Popes and more Popes). I walked out of the church and was immediately hit by a wave of heat coming off the square so I headed for a shady spot and ate a wicked bakery item I'd brought with me for lunch ( a huge danish pastry filled with gooey chocolate) and drunk a couple of bottles of icy cold water from a fountain. I thought I'd check out the Castel di Sant'Angelo before heading home. This started off by being the mausoleum Emperor Hadrian built in 130AD for him and his family. The church took it on as a castle refuge for Popes under seige and a secret passageway from the St Peter's to the castle was built and used several times. It then became a church prison and is now a museum. The present Archangel Michael statue at the top of the castle was erected in the 17th century. Legend has it that the Archangel appeared above the castle sheathing his sword, as a sign of the end of a plague in 590AD , and a statue has been in place on top of the castle ever since......

The end of the queue

The end of the queue


getting closer after an hour

getting closer after an hour


the place is starting to look gigantic

the place is starting to look gigantic


those pillars are enormous

those pillars are enormous


from the entry down the nave

from the entry down the nave


another angle

another angle


looking down the nave

looking down the nave


further down the nave

further down the nave


bellini's beautiful baldacchino above altar

bellini's beautiful baldacchino above altar


side view of baldacchino at high altar

side view of baldacchino at high altar


michaelangelo's pieta- behind glass

michaelangelo's pieta- behind glass


ceiling details

ceiling details


looking up into dome

looking up into dome


popes everywhere you look

popes everywhere you look


and another

and another


and another

and another


paintings in various chapels

paintings in various chapels


another pope

another pope


the apse with st.peter's chair

the apse with st.peter's chair


another angle

another angle


angels everywhere

angels everywhere


and saints

and saints


another chapel

another chapel


beautiful chapel painting

beautiful chapel painting


unknown saint

unknown saint


another group

another group


and another

and another


one of the chapels in use

one of the chapels in use


bronze of st. peter enthroned

bronze of st. peter enthroned


line formed to rub or kiss the foot

line formed to rub or kiss the foot


another view

another view


the complete setting

the complete setting


another pope

another pope


one more

one more


goodbye St Peter's

goodbye St Peter's


icy cold drinking water

icy cold drinking water


ate my lunch in the shade of the pillars

ate my lunch in the shade of the pillars


inside this wing

inside this wing


looking across to sant'angelo bridge

looking across to sant'angelo bridge


crossing sant'angelo bridge to castle

crossing sant'angelo bridge to castle


statue of st michael on top of castle

statue of st michael on top of castle


castle sant'angelo

castle sant'angelo


st michael sheathing his sword

st michael sheathing his sword


looking across to st peter's dome

looking across to st peter's dome

Posted by astrix7 17:00 Archived in Italy

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