St. Peter's Basilica

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  • Topic: St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, Pope
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  • Published : April 18, 2012
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St. Peters Basilica

St. Peters Basilica is located in the Vatican in Rome. Built in the High Renaissance to early Baroque period, the construction of St. Peter’s took about 150 years to complete. A bevvy of famous architects worked on the Basilica, beginning with Bramante and finishing with Michelangelo. It has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world, and though it is neither the Cathedral of the Pope nor the mother church of Roman Catholicism, it is still regarded as one of the holiest Catholic locations. St. Peter’s Basilica is named so because it is the burial site of Saint Peter, one of the twelve apostles. There has been a church on this site since the fourth century and many new Popes were interred there, as Saint Peter’s tomb is located directly beneath the structure.

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Pope Julius II commissioned Bramante to construct his tomb at the site of St. Peter’s. In 1505 Bramante designed a bold Greek cross design (figure 1). He wanted to capture the grandeur of the ancient Roman builders by proposing a domed structure more grandiose than any edifice produced by the early Romans. The dome would be supported on pendentives and semicircular arches, and was more similar to Byzantine style than actual Roman. The design would prove to be inadequate structurally, unable to support the massive weight of such a large dome. Bramante died very early in the construction, in 1514. Many architects tried to take the helm after Bramante’s death, including Raphael (figure 2), Baldassare Peruzzi, Fra Giocondo and Giuliano da Sangallo; however the Sack of Rome by Charles V in 1527 emptied the coffers, making further construction impossibility until much later.

Sangallo the Younger proposed a design that was a conglomeration of Bramante, Peruzzi and Raphael. His additions, completed in 1546 – also the year he died – were ungainly and under scaled classical orders for the north and south transept...
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