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Saint Peter's Basilica

According to tradition the St. Peter's Basilica (Saint Peter) is built on the tomb of the apostle Peter, crucified and sentenced around 60 AC, on the place that the pontificate Anacleto wanted to signal with the building of a "trophy". It was only with the empire of Constantine and the recognition of the Christian religion as official cult of the Roman Empire that the foundations of the paleochristian basilica of St. Peter were realized. The works, started in 315 AC, were finished about eleven years later, when Pope Silvestro II consecrated the church with a solemnly ceremony. After more than a millennium of history the building, in which were also hosted some frescoes of Giotto, had reached a degree of heavy degradation when Pope Nicola V decided a radical restoration entrusted to Leon Battista Alberti and Bernardo Rossellino. After the death of the Pontificate, however, Pope Giulio II decided to interrupt the works, changing the project into the building of a new cathedral. In 1506 AC the work was entrusted to Bramante who started by destroying the pre-existing basilica and then built the base of the one that would have been the biggest cathedral of Christianity. In the more than a hundred years necessary to achieve the works of the Basilica, there were some changes in the direction of the "Fabric of St. Peter"; the most famous artists of the time took the direction of the works; from Raffaello Sanzio, who around 1514 AC chose to transform the plan of the edifice realized by Bramante into a Latin cross, to Antonio da Sangallo il Giovane and Michelangelo, who, under the Pontificate of Paolo III, in addition to decide to go back to the original Greek cross project, also designed the dome of which he personally followed the realization up to his death in 1564 AC. In the more or less thirty years which followed, the "Fabric of St. Peter" was under the direction first of Vignola and then of the Architects Giacomo Della Porta and Domenico Fontana who have the merit to have brought to achievement, around 1588 AC, the project of Michelangelo of the cupola. The Basilica of St. Peter reached its actual aspect thanks to the intervention of Carlo Maderno, who came back to the basilica plan with Latin cross, and realized the scenographic aspect of the façade characterized by the front stairs, the outcropped columns in the masonry, the windows with the loggia of the benedictions at the centre and above the thirteen statues of Jesus, Giovanni Battista and the apostles. The works of the basilica ended under the Pontificate of Urbano VIII in 1626 AC, but only between 1655 and 1667 AC, on the desire of Alessandro VII, Bernini projected and realized the big portico with columns of the square and put at the centre the obelisk of the I century AC coming from Eliopoli. The Basilica of St. Peter, nowadays able to welcome 20000 believers, is more than 130 metres high and around 190 metres long, the ceilings of the bays reach almost 44 metres high and the cupola is more or less 120 metres high inside and 136 on the external lantern; the inside, characterized by the large decorations with mosaics, are also the precious box for some of the most famous art works of the work, such as for example the Baldacchino by Bernini and the statue of the Pietà by Michelangelo.

The Dome

Michelangelo's last great work, the Dome of St. Peter's, has a diameter of around 43 meters; it sits on four great arches that stand on four massive piers, each with a perimeter of 71 meters. When Michelangelo died, the drum was already in place with its 16 windows.

Giacomo della Porta finished the work with the construction of the actual dome, raising it 10 meters so it now rests 136 meters above floor level. This deviation from the original design caused it to lose some of the round shape Michelangelo had planned. The mosaics were completed later, following designs by Cavalier d'Arpino.

Pietà by Michelangelo

Pitetà by MichelangeloIn 1498 after Christ, Michelangelo, only 22 years old, writes a contract, guaranteed by Jacopo Galli, with the French Cardinal of San Dionigi, for the realization, within a year, of a "Pietà" (pity) in marble destined to be placed in the Basilica of San Pietro. On a piece of marble personally chosen in the pits of Carrara, Michelangelo represents the isolated aspects of the Virgin Mary holding in her arms the body of the Christ right after it was taken down from the Crosse, according to an iconography that, during this period, had found a large consensus on the other side of the Alps. 1.74cm high, the "Pietà" of Michelangelo presents strong particularities in the anatomy and also in the finishes of the drapes, with translucent effects of accentuated by the way in which the light seemed to caress the marble superficies. One of the things that most surprises on the sculpture is the aspect extremely young the artist wanted to give to the face of the Virgin Mary; this choice, strongly criticized by the contemporaneous, finds its justification in the abstract character of the composition. In the intentions of the sculptor, the Madonna probably represents the entire humanity and as such, using the words of the "Divine Comedy" of Dante, she is the "Virgin Mother, daughter of your son". On the face of the Christ are absents the signs of the Passion, Michelangelo, in fact, does not desire the objective representation of the death but expresses his own religious vision in the abandoned and, anyway, serene face of the Son, as a testimony of the communion between man and God sanctified with the sacrifice of the Saver. It is said that Michelangelo, not used to firm the own works, after he had casually heard some visitors from Lombardy say that the "Pietà" was the work of Gobbo di Milano, went to the Basilica of San Pietro on the night itself, and engraved on the work the writing: "Angelus Bonarotus Florentinus Faciebat". The sculpture was placed in 1499 after Christ in the Chapel of Santa Petronilla in San Pietro, where it stays until 1517 after Christ when it is moved to the old Sacristy. Since 1749 after Christ the work is placed in its actual location and it has abandoned the Basilica of San Pietro only to be welcomed to the Universal Exhibition of New York from 1962 to 1964. Following the gesture of a silly person, who in 1972 damaged the work with numerous hammer beats, after the restoration it has been decided to protect the sculpture with a crystal wall.

Vatican Museum

The original core of the works of the Vatican Museums is formed of the collection of sculptures that were exhibited in the "Court of the Statues", nowadays called "Cortile Ottagono", on the desire of Giulio II Pope from 1503 to 1513 after Christ.

Clement XIV and Pio VI fitted out the first collections of the Pontificate Museums and Galleries, while Pio VII enriched the Epigraphic Collection and increased the rooms dedicated to the Classical Antiquities, adding the "Chiaramonti Museum" with the rooms of the Hall, of the Lapidaria Gallery and of the "Braccio Nuovo" (New Arm) where are hosted a series of statues, busts, sarcophagus and figures in relief with more than 5000 pagan and Christian inscriptions, and some of the most famous works of the Antiquity such as the statue of "Augusto di Prima Porta", the colossal statue of the Nile and the "Doriforo". Gregorio XVI founded the Etruscan Museum and the Egyptian Museum, to collect the works coming from the excavations and explorations made in Etruria and in Egypt. The actual organisation of the Vatican Museums is due to the wish of Pio IX and Pio X, who added respectively the Christian Museum and the Hebraic Lapidary formed with the inscriptions and sculptures coming from the Hebraic and Christian cemeteries of Rome. Are also part of the rooms of the Vatican Museums:

Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel, wanted by Pope Sisto IV della Rovere, from which it takes its name, was built by Giovannino de'Dolci between 1475 and 1481 after Christ. The decoration in the style of 1400 of the walls, realized by an extraordinary group of painters made of Perugino, Botticelli, Signorelli and Ghirlandaio, includes the artificial draperies, the "Stories of Moses and Christ" and the portraits of the Pontiffs while Pier Matteo d'Amelia painted for the inauguration on the vault a starlight sky. The realization of the frescoes in Sistine Chapel, at least for the one that constituted the initial composition, was taken to its end in 1482 after Christ when were also completed the marble works relatives to the grating, to the choir-stalls, and to the pontifical emblem located above the entrance door. The chapel was consecrated to the cult of the Lady of the Assumption on August 15th 1483 after Christ by Pope Sisto IV but already his nephew, Pope Giulio II della Rovere, only 25 years old, decided to modify the decorations later on, charging Michelangelo Buonarroti of this work. The contract undertaken on May 8th 1508 after Christ was contemplating the realization of the portraits of the twelve apostles in the crests of the vault, surrounded by ornamental decorations, but soon the Pontiff saw himself constrained to surrender to the requests of the artist who was claiming for a greater liberty of composition. Michelangelo painted new episodes extracted from the book of the Genesis organized inside an artificial architecture in thematic groups of three. When the painting process of the Sistine Chapel was completed, Michelangelo represented along the sides of the vaults figures of sibyls and prophets seating on the throne, in the sails, those who presumably have to be retained as the ancestors of Christ, and in the four angular crests, some episodes of the salvation of the people of Israel. The most important work of Michelangelo was completed in 1512 after Christ, and on November 1st Giulio II inaugurated a second time the Sistine Chapel with a solemn mass. Towards the end of 1533 after Christ Clemente VII De'Medici charged Michelangelo to modify again the decoration of the Sistine Chapel by painting on the wall of the altar, at the place of some frescoes of Perugino, the Universal Judgment. In the second half of the 16th century, the frescoes of the entrance wall were restored, seriously damaged by the collapse of the door in 1522 after Christ: Hendrik van den Broeck painted again the "Resurrection of Christ", while Matteo da Lecce painted the "Dispute on the body of Moses". The frescoes of the chapel have sustained a complete restoration between 1979 and 1999 after Christ, recovering the splendour of the colours and the integrity of the original painting tissue.


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