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St. Peter’s Basilica

February 7, 2011



St. Peter’s Basilica

Carlo Maderno 1608-1614.

Vatican City.

St. Peter’s Basilica had its share of architects before Carlo Maderno came onto the scene.  Among them were Bramante, Michelangelo, and Bernini.  In 1603, Maderno was given the privilege to work on the basilica (Wittkower 75).

Carlo Maderno made some changes to Michelangelo’s plan – the architect before him.  He decided to extend the nave of the church both to accommodate more people and to control the experience of the worshipper leading up to the high altar.  In doing so, the huge dome that stood as a symbol of the Church would not have beeen able to be seen from the ground.  Thus, Maderno also extended the dome.

A style made popular by Maderno in his Santa Susanna and Il Gesù, Saint Peter’s also has an aedicular façade.  This type of façade includes many niches that either encompass sculpture or are implemented just for the sake of niches as an architectural feature.  This in-and-out weave creates a unity to the front of the building.

Maderno also created a dynamic build up to the center of the structure with his order and pattern of columns and pilasters.  The giant orders of the lower story are arranged from pilasters farthest from the center doorway, to columns close to the building, to columns that stand more independently from the façade, finally to the largest framing structures of the doorways.  The more independent columns create a sense of depth behind them, into the heavenly space that is the interior of the basilica.  The columns and pilasters are of Corinthian order – an order once used in ancient times only on the interior of temples because they were thought to be too beautiful and sacred to show to the world (Walker 64).  Now the Church (the Vatican and Rome alike) takes its stand as the True Faith, for the entire world to see.

Wittkower, Rudolf.  Art and Architecture in Italy 1600-1750: Vol. I, Early Baroque. Yale University Press. 1958.

Dodge, Hazel, Jon Coulston.  Ancient Rome: The Archaeology of the Eternal City. Oxford: Oxford University School of Archaeology.  2000.  Susan Walker.  “The Moral Museum: Augustus and the City of Rome.” Pp. 61-75.

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