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Dome of Saint Hripsime Church

Dome of Saint Hripsime Church


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Saint Hripsime Church

Saint Hripsimé Church (Armenian: Սուրբ Հռիփսիմէի եկեղեցի is one of the oldest surviving churches in Armenia. The church was erected by Catholicos Komitas atop the original mausoleum built by Catholicos Sahak the Great in the year 395 AD that contained the remains of the martyred Saint Hripsimé to who the church was dedicated to. The structure was completed in the year 618 AD. It is known for its fine Armenian architecture of the classical period, which has influenced many other Armenian churches since. This church together with other nearby sites is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is located the present day city of Etchmiadzin, Armenia in the Armavir Province.


St.Hripsime temple

Hripsime church, one of the finest works of Armenian architecture of the classical period, a variant of the concentrical domed composition, stands on a slight elevation, at the eastern edge of Vagharshapat City. This kind of composition is characteristic only of the Christian countries of the Transcaucasus. Its expressive silhouette, seen from afar, stands up sharply against the background of an emerald-green valley dominated by the snow-capped Mt. Ararat.

St.Hripsime church, completed in 618, is a vivid example of a structure distinguished by the unity of layout and decoration in which the central-dome system is brought to perfection. The outside niches, which appeared in Hripsime Church for the first time, presently became a characteristic feature of Armenian architecture in the feudal epoch.

The harmonious combination of individual components imparts monumentality and grandeur to Hripsime church which is relatively small. St.Hripsime church is among outstanding works of Armenian architecture. Its type was repeatedly reproduced in other structures of the Transcaucasus. The simplicity and clarity of the concept the laconic shapes and the interior layout had a decisive influence on the subsequent development of Armenian architecture.

Later, the church underwent certain changes in particular, the western and southern entrance porticos were pulled down, and the side windows of the altar apse were walled up. In 1790 a two-tier bell-tower with an eight-column belfry was added to it.

As far as the church&rsquos furnishing is concerned, of interest is the inlaid mother-of-pearl altar piece of 1741 which indicates a high level of Armenian applied art of the 18th century.


Marble Decorations

The word “marble”, which is known as “Marmaron” in Greek, was named after the Marmara Island that was famous for its rich marble deposits. These white marbles with gray grains were extensively used in the decoration of Chora. In addition to the marbles from the Marmara Island, porphyritic, ancient green, onyx, red, yellow and pink-grained marbles brought from different places such as North Africa, the island of Euboea (Eğriboz) and the Afyon province produced a rich outlook. Marble blocks of the same sets were cut and mounted side by side in order to form patterns, rich symmetrical figures and motifs resembling wood grains.

Although the marble works in Chora Museum are as rich and striking as those in Hagia Sophia, they do not attract the attention of visitors that much, because of the rich mosaics and fascinating fresco pictures. In particular, the naos and the wall coverings in the narthexes of Chora contain marble. Marble patterns in opus sectile style were used in coverings and additionally in the friezes under the cornices of the naos walls.
Attentive observers are able to observe the fine marble works in the frames of the tomb niches, in the marble intarsia cornices, in the yellow and dark colored reliefs on the capitals of the columns, and on the first door on the north side of the entrance to the naos.


Inside the Dome church of Les Invalides

Upon entering the Dome church, notice the monumental bronze doors. The symbols of the King of France adorn their leaves. Look for the:

  • monogram of Saint-Louis (SL),
  • initials of Louis XIV (composed of the first letter of the king’s name (L for Louis), doubled and interlaced to form one symbol), and
  • fleurs-de-lys (the official emblem of the kings of France from 1150 to 1830).

The French authorities restored the doors to their former glory in 2008.

Inside the church

Once inside the Dome church for the first time I experienced a great sense of majesty and awe. You don’t know what to look for so much the decoration is sumptuous: painted cupolas, pilasters and columns, low-relief sculptures, stained-glass windows.

Look at the floor to see the polychrome marble marquetries.

Floor mosaics inside the Dome church of Les Invalides © French Moments

Then, lift your head towards the magnificent ceiling! A circular painting by Charles de la Fosse (1692) decorates it. The scene depicts the Glory of Paradise, with Saint-Louis presenting his sword to Christ.

The side chapels

Four side-chapels flank the central part with small domes and two side-halls (the arms of the transepts). They contain the tombs of famous military leaders:

  • Lyautey,
  • Foch,
  • Vauban (his heart only),
  • Joseph Bonaparte,
  • Jérôme Bonaparte and his son, and
  • Turenne.

The main altar and its canopy

Notice near the stairs that lead down to the crypt the glorious main altar. Visconti designed them between 1842 and 1853. This masterpiece of marble and bronze is 7 m high. Four spiral columns support a magnificent canopy.

Behind it, a glass partition separates the Dome church from the adjacent Cathedral of Saint-Louis des Invalides.


Old and New Churches of Gyumri

Gyumri is one of the centres of the ancient region of Shirak. Its churches take a special place in the Armenian architecture. They have been built in Gyumri in parallel with its history, struggles and urban planning. The medieval construction of Gyumri is just the chronicle of its churches. They say that the churches in Gyumri have taken the most important place in the development of worship buildings in the region since Urartu period to the ancient times, adoption of Christianity and up to now.

Gyumri is 126 kilometers (78 miles) north of the capital Yerevan at the central part of the Shirak plateau, on the left bank of the Akhuryan River. The first state formation within the territory of Gyumri is mentioned in the 8th century record (called &ldquoIrdaniu) found near the Marmashen monastery. According to the latest research, Irdaniu is the modern city of Gyumri, while before it was identified with Marmashen. The researchers identify Kumayri with the Kumayri ancient site on the left bank of Cherkez canyon. Here was located also the most ancient church of Kumayri which is the first Christian worship place preserved within the territory of the city. It&rsquos not ruled out that it had been built in the place of an ancient pagan temple, as this place was a residential area during the Urartian state and probably it had a temple.


After the fall of the kingdom of Van, Kumayri was included in the state of the united kingdom of Yervanduni. Since 189 BC it has been part of the Armenian Artashesian kingdom. After the fall of the Artashesians dynasty (1 BC), the Roman armies were raiding Armenia. They were passing through Kumayri, which, as a military base, was seized by the enemy. There were no churches built in Kumayri in those days as the church building in Armenia started since the adoption of Christianity in 301. Gregory the Illuminator destroyed all the pagan temples and built Christian churches instead. There are no buildings in Kumayri preserved from that period of time. Instead, there are a lot in Shirak&rsquos other villages and towns. During the 1st century AD, Shirak was granted to the Kamsarakan family, who ruled over Kumayri during the Arsacid Kingdom of Armenia. They built two churches in Artik and Lmbatavank, churches in Pemzashen, Lernakert, Nor Kyank, Bardzrashen and Kumayri basilica.

The first church built in Kumayri is the 7th century Dprevank. It is believed that it was a cultural center where Barsegh Jhon worked, and Anania Shirakatsi received education. The church was rebuilt in 935 with the efforts of the King of Bagratuni, with the participation of persecuted Armenian clergymen from Byzantium.

A fundament of Kumayri basilica

The new stage of church building in Gyumri started at the beginning of the 19th century, when the city fell under the Russian domination. From the 30s of the century, the construction of the new fortress began. In parallel with it, the military authorities made the city's first planning. According to the project, the area was to be containing a regular network of streets that would extend from north to south, from east to west. Depending on the nationality of the population and the characteristic features of the city, the neighborhoods in the city had different names: the Russian district of Slobotka (free from slopes), the Dzor rival, the Catholic (Franks) neighborhood, the Turkic district or the Frankie neighborhood. Gyumretsis called the neighborhoods &ldquomahla&rdquo. The word has changed somehow but is still preserved in the city&rsquos spoken dialect.

In 1837, after the visit of the Russian Tsar Nikolas First, Gyumri turned into a fortress-castle and was named Alexandropol. The name was chosen in honor of Tsar Nicholas I's wife, Alexandra. In the same year, the construction of a new castle was completed. There was also a Russian church built within the castle.

St. Alexandra church nowadays

The construction of the castle was followed by the reconstruction of Alexandrapol. The city center then became a market-square (now Vardanants Square) - a commercial, administrative, spiritual and cultural center. In parallel with the urban development, the golden age of church building began. Most of the churches in Alexandrapol were built up by the ravages. They took part in all the vital and spiritual - cultural events of the city. The esnafs were working for free because participation in those activities was viewed as a spiritual contribution, sacred work. The churches were built from polished black stone. S. Matevosyan reports that there were quarries in the western part of Gyumri in the Çerkes canyon, which contained black tufa stocks. From here the stone was supplied for construction of the city. It can be concluded that the black tufa served as a raw material for the churches of the city, as it is evident from the fact that the worship facilities were basically made of that kind of stone.

Alexandropol in the middle of the 19th century

Most of the churches in Alexandrapol were built on different sides of the market, each district had its chapel. The approximate location of the churches in the city is presented in the following layout of Kumayri. There are not mentioned only St. Hakob and St. Hripsime churches, as they were built in newly built districts after the earthquake, but the plan had been drawn up before 1988.

1. Holy Saviour's church, 2. Seven Wounds of the Holy Mother of God church, 3. Holy Sign church, 4. Saint Michael the Archangel Russian Orthodox church, 5. Kumayri basilica, 6. Saint George Greek Orthodox church, 7. Cathedral of the Holy Martyrs of the Catholic Armenians, 8. Saint Alexandria, 9. Saint Khach, 11. Saint Gregory the Illuminator's church, 12. Saint Arsenije Russian Orthodox church, 13. Saint Sargis chapel.

St. George church is in front of the market and St. Saviour&rsquos Church is behind it. Holy mother of God church is on its back , while Cathedral of the Holy Martyrs of the Catholic Armenians is on the left. In the back of Holy Mother of God is located Holy Sign church, close to Saint Gregory the Illuminator's Church. The location of churches is well illustrated in the modeling of Alexandropol which is in Gyumri&rsquos museum of National Architecture and Social life.

Miniature Alexandropol: House-Museum of Social Life and National Architecture in Gyumri

We can also get a sense by the postcards and invitations, as in the middle of XIX century Alexandropol was so beautiful, that there were postcards made with its scenes. In the photos, preserved from those times, either Alexandropol&rsquos dwellings and other buildings are surrounded by churches, or churches unite around other buildings of the city. Gh. Alishan also mentions about the location of Alexandropol&rsquos churches. He notes about four Armenian churches in Alexandropol &ndash &ldquotwo of them are new, and other two &ndash old&rdquo. It is about Holy Saviour's church, Holy Sign church, Saint Gregory the Illuminator's Church and Seven Wounds of the Holy Mother of God. The first two churches were built in the 60s, while the others &ndash in the 70-80s. The construction of churches in Alexandropol in the 19th century may be conditionally divided into two main phases &ndash 1830-1860s and 1870-1880s. All the churches in the city were built in this period of time. It turns out that before having Armenian apostolic churches Gyumri had already had its Russian, Greek and Catholic churches. In 1852, for instance, the construction of a Catholic church started.

Cathedral of the Holy Martyrs of the Catholic Armenians today

The church was anointed in 1855. Almost in parallel with its construction begins the construction of Saint George Greek Orthodox Church. The latter was in the Greek neighborhood, close to Stepan Shahumyan&rsquos present monument.

In 1859-1864s Holy Sign church or Sev Jham (Black church) was built.

Holy Sign church

The construction of latter was still going on when in 1859, directed by Fair Manouk, mason masters of Gyumri began to build Holy Saviour's Church (1859-1873).

Holy Saviour&rsquos church nowadays

In 1870-1880, in the district of Dzori mahla (district) Saint Gregory the Illuminator's Church was built thanks to donations of local residents. It was in a destroyed state for a long time after the 1988 earthquake, until it was fully restored by 2015.

Saint Gregory the Illuminator&rsquos church nowadays

Near the &ldquoHill of Honor cemetery&rdquo, in the southern part of the city, Saint Michael the Archangel Russian Orthodox Church was built, which was called &ldquoPlplan jham&rdquo (&ldquoSparkly church&rdquo) because of its glittering tin dome.

Saint Michael the Archangel Russian Orthodox Church nowadays

The construction of Holy Mother of God church became a great event for the residents of Gyumri. The contemporaries have described the construction as a celebration. The church, mostly known as &ldquoSeven Wounds&rdquo was built in 1882-1887s.

Seven Wounds of the Holy Mother of God church

In 1924 the city was renamed Leninakan, was rebuilt in accordance with the principles of socialist urbanization. Economic buildings, factories, workshops, public institutions were created. In the Soviet era, Armenia experienced economic and social growth, but the Church left behind. Churches, which had been built in several cities long ago, were fully destroyed. Some of them were used for different purposes. The churches in Leninakan also were subjected to that policy. St. Saviour&rsquos church was used as a Philharmonic, St. Sign - as an observatory, St. Gregory - as a warehouse: Saint George Greek Orthodox church was completely destroyed. The Armenian Catholic Church turned into a dwelling house. In 1932-1937s members of an Atheist movement tried to damage Holy Mother of God church&rsquos dome, but failed. In 1937 the bell tower of the church was blown up in front of Gyumri residents.

The disastrous earthquake on December 7, 1988 shook the city if Leninakan. It lost many buildings that had been acquired during the centuries. After the earthquake the chief architect David Chisliev was invited to Leninakan to construct the city&rsquos new plan. The city&rsquos churches which were damaged as a result of the earthquake, are being rebuilt so far, but the new phase of church construction started several years after the earthquake. In 1991 Gyumri already had a new church &ndash St. Hripsime chapel in the Austrian district, which marked the beginning of a new phase of church construction in a city of ruins.

St. Hripsime chapel

In 1992 the city was renamed Gyumri. A complex and long-term process of reconstruction, which started after the earthquake, continues so far. In the 21st century Gyumri is entering a new architectural phase. Subtle black tufa is replaced by yellow tufa. New, &ldquomixed&rdquo elements of architecture also refer to church construction.

In 2002, in the northern part of the city &ndash Ani district &ndash a new church was constructed. It was called St. Hakob and its architect was Baghdasar Arzumanyan.

St. Hakob church

In 2008, in the territory of the former children&rsquos railroad (Sargsyan street) was constructed St. Sargis chapel. It is situated not far from Sev Ghul (Black Fortress). It was anointed in 2011.

St. Sargis chapel

If in the 19th century the churches were generally built near the city center, now they are located in different parts of Gyumri, even in suburban districts. In the city centre &ndash Vardanants square &ndash you can see St. Holy Mother of God church, St. Holy Sign and Holy Saviour&rsquos churches.

Saint Arsenije Russian Orthodox church

The golden age of church construction in Gyumri can definitely be considered the period of Alexandrapol when 13 churches were built in the city over the last 50 years (1837-1887). This period of spiritual awakening begins in 1837, with the construction of Russian church St. Alexandria in 1837 and ends with the anointment of St. Holy Mother of God in 1887. It has already been mentioned that except for Armenian churches, there have been built Russian, Greek and Catholic churches. Seven Russian churches have been built in Gyumri so far, and most of them are situated in military bases.

Severski Avanpost church

The small town with five monasteries described by Jivani as a &ldquochurch lover&rdquo town, Gyumri has not changed even in about a century and a half. Many years have passed since the earthquake, but the town is still full of homeless and unemployed people who still live by &ldquoSeven Wounds is my witness&rdquo sacrament. The masters of Gyumri, directed by talented architects, still continue putting a stone on the stone and a cross &ndash on the dome.


Dome of Saint Hripsime Church - History

The reconfiguration of the ceiling medallion in center of the Church is well underway. The existing angular orifice will be replaced with a dome which is a more traditional form of Church architecture.

The dome was manufactured for us by a small shop in Utah and arrived on Thursday, well packed and "ready to reassemble"!

On Saturday, the technicians reassembled the dome and trim, measured and prepared for installation later next week. (it was later disassembled to be moved into the Church Nave in the coming week).

Meanwhile, the Iconographer has been preparing icons in his studio which will illumine the dome.


Saint Peter’s Basilica Rome

History

Saint Peter’s Basilica

The present version of the basilica was built between 1506 and 1626. The building’s architectural style is baroque. The present basilica replaces an earlier one, which had been commissioned by Constantin the Great and was constructed in 324.

Pope Nicolas V Bernardo Rossolino had already given orders to have this first, by then rather dilapidated church, restored. This came to nothing, however, and in 1506 Pope Julius II commissioned Bramante to demolish the basilica and design a new one.

When Bramante died, Raphael took over. He tore down Bramante‘s construction and changed the latter’s Greek cross into a Latin one. His successor Antonio da Sangallo, though keeping on to Raphael‘s floor plan, but had part of the new basilica restructured.

Michelangelo took over after Sangallo‘s death and, preferring Bramante‘s original idea, went back to the Greek cross. Everything had to be redone and, even though Michelangelo worked for free, this was extremely costly and the work had to be financed through the sale of indulgences.

Carlo Maderno was the final architect to work on the basilica and he had the nave lengthened, since the church had to become bigger than originally planned. Maderno was also responsible for the facade (but not for the bell-towers).

The facade is adorned with statues of Jesus, John the Baptist and all apostles (with the exception of Judas).

Gian Lorenzo Bernini designed most of the basilica’s interior.

Main Attractions

Michelangelo’s Pietà

One of the artist’s most famous sculptures can be found in the first chapel on the right upon entering the basilica. Michelangelo’s Pietà is the only one the artist only one he ever signed, even though he considered his creation not yet finished. After the sculpture was attacked by a madman who thought he was Jesus, it was encased in a protective glass wall .

Saint Peter’s Dome

Saint Peter’s Dome was designed by Michelangelo and has a height of 136m. 551 Steps will take you there, but you can also take an elevator for roughly two-thirds of the way. There is still an unwritten law in Rome that says buildings may not be taller than the highest point of this cupola. Unfortunately Michelangelo died before the dome was finished.

More attractions

The facade is 115 meters wide and is preceded by steps which were designed by Bernini. There are 13 statues on top of the attic. The central part of the facade is taken up by the Loggia delle Benedizioni. It is from here that the Pope addresses the crowd on special occasions. It is also here that the name of a new Pope is announced.

The doorknocker on the central one of the five entrances was made in the 15th centruy by Filarete.

The door on the right is the Holy Door, which is only opened when there is a Jubilee (generally once every 25 years).

The statue of the Emperor Constantine in the atrium was done by Bernini.

On the floor of the central nave, near the entrance, a porphyry disc can be seen. This is the Rota Porphyretica, In the year 800 Charlemagne kneeled on this disc when Pope Leo III gave him the imperial crown.

A bit further into the basilica the floor shows the lengths of the four biggest churches in the world..

Arnolfo di Cambio was responsible for the famous statue depicting a seated Saint Peter near the last column on the right.

The mosaics in the dome were made in 1605 by Cavalier d’Arpino. The dome itself is supported by four enormous columns with statues of saints.

Right underneath the dome is Bernini‘s famous baldachin with underneath it the Papal altar. Bernini worked on the baldachin from 1624 till 1633. He was helped by several famous masters, including his enemy Borromini.

Bernini also designed the funerary monument for Pope Urban VIII.

The tomb of Urban VIII was designed by Bernini. Guglielmo della Porta was responsible for the monument for Pope Paul III. The monument for Clement XIII was made by Antonio Canova (1784). The oldest funerary monument in the church is the tomb of Innocent VIII. It was made in 1498 by Pollaiolo.

The portrait of the Pope near the sarcophagus is by allegorical figures, such as “Religion”, which is holding a cross and a Genie quenching the flame of life. Two lions keep an eye on proceedings.


Saint Peter's Basilica (Rome) (1506-1626)

For more religious architecture, see: Christian Art (c.150-2000).

EVOLUTION OF VISUAL ART
For details of art movements
and styles, see: History of Art.
For a guide to chronology,
see: History of Art Timeline.

The Basilica Papale di San Pietro in the Vatican City, commonly known as Saint Peter's Basilica, is the most famous Roman Catholic church in the world and one of the holiest sites in Christendom, dating back to Roman architecture of the early Christian art period. The basilica, now the Pope's principal church, was built according to tradition above the burial site of St. Peter, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus and the first Bishop of Rome, who was martyred in the year 64 CE. To maintain this tradition, Popes are now buried within the basilica. Designed as a replacement for the old Constantinian church (where, for instance, King Charlemagne had been crowned Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day 800) which had been erected around 320 CE, construction of the present building was begun in 1506 (under Pope Julius II) and completed in 1626 (under Pope Urban VIII). Admired for its Renaissance sculpture as well as its fusion of Renaissance and Baroque architecture, the design, construction and decoration of Saint Peter's involved the greatest Old Masters of the day, including Alberti, Raphael, Bramante, Michelangelo, and Bernini. Note that it is called a papal basilica rather than a cathedral, since it is not the seat of a bishop: the Arch Basilica of St. John Lateran is actually the cathedral church of Rome. The latter functions as the principal church for worshippers who live in Rome, whereas the former serves as the focal point for all pilgrims who come to Rome, as well as locals.

Background: Art and Religion

From the ninth century onwards, the Christian Church was inextricably linked with the fine arts of architecture (for basilicas, cathedrals, churches, abbeys like Cluny), sculpture (both reliefs and statues) and painting (altarpiece panels as well as monumental works), for which it became the greatest sponsor and patron across Europe. It also commissioned many types of decorative art, including stained glass (notably in Gothic cathedrals), and tapestry art, as well as a huge range of mural painting (Sistine Chapel) illuminated manuscripts and miniature painting. In south-eastern Europe, in particular, it commissioned numerous items of mosaic art and a wealth of icon-painting. All these beautiful designs and objects of religious art were created in order to inspire religious congregations with the Christian message. In fact, at certain times, such as during the mid-16th century Counter-Reformation, sculptors and painters were given detailed instructions about how the precise features of a New Testament story should be presented. So it is no surprise that Saint Peter's Basilica itself - the world centre of the Roman Church - is lavishly endowed with many different types of art.

Structure and Dimensions

Built out of travertine stone, Saint Peter's is 452 feet high, 730 feet in length, and 500 feet in width, with an interior length of just over 693 feet (roughly 211 metres). Covering an area of 2.3 hectares (5.7 acres or about 50,000 square feet), and large enough for 60,000 people, it used to be the largest Christian church in the world, but in 1989 it was exceeded in size by the church in Yamoussoukro, Cote d'Ivoire.

Interior Decoration: Nave, Chapels, Sculpture

Pilgrims entering the basilica are monitored by church officials and members of The Swiss Guard. Inside, the basilica is cruciform in shape, with an elongated nave in the form of a Latin cross. The nave is framed by wide aisles giving access to a number of chapels. These include: the Chapel of the Presentation of the Virgin, the Clementine Chapel, the Chapel of the Madonna of Colonna, the Gregorian Chapel, the Chapel of the Pieta and several other altars. In addition, beneath the high altar, is the Chapel of the Confession.

The interior of Saint Peter's contains a number of priceless treasures in marble and bronze by the greatest Renaissance sculptors - works such as Pieta (1500) by Michelangelo - as well as Baroque sculpture - such as the baldachin or ceremonial canopy over the main altar, and the traditional Chair of St Peter (Cathedra Petri), both designed by Bernini - and Neoclassical sculpture (such as the marble statue of Pope Pius VI) by Europe's greatest neoclassical sculptors like the Italian genius Antonio Canova (1757-1822). It also contains numerous papal tombs ornamented with marble statues and reliefs - such as the Tomb of Pope Leo XI (1634-44) by Alessandro Algardi (1598-1654) - as well as mosaics and precious metalwork. Ironically, the huge and aggressive fund-raising campaign required to pay for the cost of the basilica and its contents (46 million ducats), led to protest across Europe and became an important factor in triggering the Reformation and the birth of Protestantism.

Exterior Architecture: Facade, Dome

Saint Peter's is approached via St. Peter's Square, an elliptical forecourt encircled by a Doric colonnade, derived from Greek architecture. It ends at the facade of Saint Peter's which is 376 feet wide and 150 feet high. Designed by Carlo Maderno, the facade features a giant order of Corinthian columns (each 90 feet high) and is topped by thirteen statues - Christ flanked by eleven of the Apostles (excluding Peter) plus John the Baptist. At ground level it is approached by steps guarded by two 18-feet high statues of Saints Peter and Paul.

The Basilica of St. Peter is one of four Major Basilicas of Rome, the others being Santa Maria Maggiore, St. Paul and St. John Lateran, but it is the dome of Saint Peter's - the tallest dome in the world - that dominates the skyline of Rome. Designed largely by Michelangelo, and built during the short but active papacy of Sixtus V (1585�) by Michelangelo's pupil Giacomo della Porta, the dome rests on four pendentives and massive piers, each 60 feet thick. It was Michelangelo who increased the size and strength of the load-bearing structure without destroying the central unity of Bramante's original design. Immediate rivals of St Peter's dome include Florence Cathedral of the Early Renaissance, designed by Filippo Brunelleschi and completed in 1434 - for details, see Florence Cathedral, Brunelleschi and the Renaissance (1420-36) Constantinople's Hagia Sophia church, completed in 537 and the dome designed by Christopher Wren for St Paul's Cathedral, finished in 1710. St Peter's Basilica is maintained by the Sampietrini, a specialist group of workers who continually scale and inspect the building's surfaces.

Some 100 tombs are to be found within St. Peter's Basilica, including a number located in the Vatican grotto, underneath the Basilica. They contain 91 popes, the Holy Roman Emperor Otto II, St. Ignatius of Antioch and Pope John Paul II. In a subterranean crypt, directly below the dome and the main altar, is the tomb of St. Peter himself.

Positioned in niches set into the four piers supporting the dome are a number of statues associated with the holy relics of the basilica. They include: St. Helena holding the True Cross, by Andrea Bolgi St. Longinus holding the spear that pierced the side of Jesus, by Bernini (1639) St. Veronica holding her veil with the image of Jesus' face, by Francesco Mochi, and St. Andrew with the St. Andrew's Cross, by Francois Duquesnoy.

The pope who first mooted the idea of a replacement for the old Constantinian basilica was Pope Nicholas V (1447㫏), who commissioned Leon Battista Alberti (1404-72) and Bernardo Rossellino (1409-64) to produce a plan for a new structure. Pope Sixtus IV (1471-84) founded new churches, including the Sistine Chapel, widened streets, and helped to transform Rome into a Renaissance city, but left the basilica alone. It wasn't until his nephew Pope Julius II took over as pontiff in 1503 that things began to move. Julius decided to demolish the old basilica and replace it with a new one to house his large tomb. A long succession of popes, architects, designers and stone masons eventually saw the project through to completion in 1626. Active pontiffs included: Leo X (1513�), Clement VII (1523�), Paul III (1534�), Sixtus V (1585�), Gregory XIV (1590-1), Clement VIII (1592�), Paul V (1605�), and Urban VIII (1623�), while among the most famous architects (Capomaestro) involved in its design, were Donato Bramante (1444-1514), Raphael (1483-1520), Giuliano da Sangallo, Baldessare Peruzzi, Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, Michelangelo (1475-1564), Giacomo della Porta, Carlo Maderno (1556-1629) (assisted by Francesco Borromini 1599-1667) and Giovanni Bernini (1598-1680). The lengthy and intermittent progress of its construction illustrates the changing course of High Renaissance art towards a break from strict, antique precedent to the freer eclectic tendencies of Mannerism and ultimately the Baroque. The artistry, architectural grandeur and sheer mass of St Peter's Basilica reaffirmed the status of Rome as the spiritual, if not temporal, home of Christianity.

Who wouldn't be weak at the knees to be among a crowd of anything up to 100,000 hushed and expectant people tightly packed in St Peter's Square waiting for the Pope to raise his arms in the blessing urbi et orbi, dedicated to the city (Rome) and the world? It is to Rome that people flock for this unique experience - the characteristic gesture with which the Roman Catholic Church presents itself to the world. They congregate in this square (dimensions: 787 feet x 1,115 feet 240m x 340m) whose vast expanse so impressively symbolizes the universal embrace of the Church.

It was Bernini, one of the most talented Baroque architects and sculptors, who designed the layout of St Peter's Square in the manner of a theatre, with the square as the auditorium and the facade of the basilica as the stage - all in keeping with the desire to make St Peter's Basilica a textbook example of Catholic Counter-Reformation Art (c.1560-1700). Basing his ideas on the architecture of classical antiquity, he drew up an elliptical space surrounded by fourfold rows of columns adorned with the figures of 96 saints, which was to become the most famous colonnade in the world. In the early 19th century, the romantic poet Wilhelm Muller wrote that the tall colonnade encircled St Peter's Square at night "as if with shimmering arms". Bernini himself envisaged the colonnade as representing the arms of God enfolding the faithful, and the architecture of the square has received praise throughout the centuries for the elegance of its sublime proportions. A smaller square, the Piazza Retta adjoins the great square. Its enclosed sides lend an air of greater intimacy.

In the centre of St Peter's square today is an obelisk (132 feet high) brought from Egypt to Rome in 37 CE during the reign of Caligula. Originally it was located on the hill of the Vatican in Nero's Circus - the site of St Peter's martyrdom - when he was crucified. It was brought to its present location in 1586, and is revered as a "witness" to Peter's death. Its move must have been an astounding spectacle since it took 140 horses and 900 labourers to move the 385 ton monolith to its new site, using a complex rope winch system.


Photo, Print, Drawing "The Promised land," as seen from the dome of Saint Peter's, Rome / Th. Nast.

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  • Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ds-12524 (digital file from original)
  • Call Number: LOT 14012, no. 28 [P&P]
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