Thursday, 13 July 2017

Rome 365 - St Peter's Basilica

A trip to Rome would not be complete without a vist to St Peter's Basilica,  even though sometimes the queue to go through the security check is daunting. However don’t be put off as it moves quickly and once inside the crowds disperse in the huge space. The guards are strict on the dress code and will refuse entry if shoulders and knees aren’t covered.

The interior is awe inspiring as was intended by the architects but before you go inside look at the three massive entrances.

The doors on the far left are known as the Doors of Death as funeral processions pass through here. The gruesome depictions of martyrdoms on the panels were designed by Giacomo Manzu.

The panels on the centre door show episodes in the lives of St Peter and St Paul. The depiction of the crucifixion of St Peter also includes the Pyramid which you may have seen on your journey in from the airport. It is on the left hand side of the panel.

The doors came from the old St Peter's Basilica and were the work of a Florentine craftsman known as Filarete.
Once inside look at the rear of the same door. Right at the bottom you will see the 'signature' of Filarete - seven figures joyfully dancing. These are Filarete & his assistants with the tools of their trade in their hands.

On the right hand side is the Holy Door which is only opened in Jubilee years.

It was last opened in December 2015 by Pope Francis for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

In the first chapel to your right as you enter you will see Michelangelo's Pieta, now protected by a glass screen after an attack in 1972.

It is the only signed work of the artist (arcoss Mary's sash). Created from flawless white Carrara marble, the sculpture shows the dead Christ lying across his mother's lap. I defy anyone not to be moved by this peerless work of art.

Michelangelo was just 25 and starting out on his career when he completed the Pieta. Towards  the end of his life  he became the supervising architect for St Peter's Basilica and was responsible for the impressive dome.

To the left of the Pieta is the tomb of Pope John Paul II - now a

Crossing into the nave look for the statue of St Peter.

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His right foot is worn from the many pilgrims who have touched it.

You can't miss the Baldacchino (canopy) over the altar. It was commissioned by the Barberini Pope, Urban VIII and designed 

by Bernini

Bronze taken from the Pantheon was used by Bernini in creating the baldacchino which led to the famous saying 'What the Barbarians did not do, the Barberini did'. Obviously Pope Urban VIII felt no shame in robbing a monument that had stood for over 1600 years.
If you look closely at the ornate columns you will see the heraldic bees among the foliage - the Barberini family symbol.

Legend says that Pope Urban VIII commissioned the baldacchino as a thanksgiving for his favourite niece surviving childbirth. On the last pedestal on the right a baby with a smiling face appears.

Looking through the baldacchino you see the Throne of St Peter, again designed by Bernini. Encased within is said to be the wooden chair used by the apostle himself.

In the niches above the statues at the base of each of the four huge piers are the only remains of the original basilica built by Emperor Constantine. These are the spiral marble columns that supported the canopy over the shrine of St Peter.

The four statues by Bernini and his pupils are of St.Veronica, St Andrew, Longinus and St Helena. They represent the relics that were displayed at Easter in the balconies above. The relics being Longinus's lance that was said to have pierced Christ's side on the cross, the head of St Andrew, a piece of the true cross discovered by St Helena and the veil that St Veronica used to wipe the blood and sweat off Christ on the way to Calvary and on which is said to be an imprint of his face.

The round mosaics above are huge in size, St Mark's pen being one and a half metres long.

To the left is the tomb of Pope Alexander VII, the last work of Bernini. Look for the skeleton brandishing an hourglass emerging from the drapery.

As you walk down the nave note the marks on the floor that indicate the comparative lengths of the largest churches in the world.

You will find this tomb dedicated to the Stuarts in the right hand aisle as you leave the Basilica. The beautiful angels were designed by Canova.

As you exit the basilica you will see members of  the Swiss Guard on duty.

The world's smallest army was formed in 1506 and is responsible for the Pope's safety. 

Head into the square and check out the optical illusion. Locate one of the two discs in line with the fountains.

If you stand on the disc facing the colonnade you will see that the three lines of columns appear to be one.

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