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Point of interests in Rome

TitleSan Pietro
Address Piazza San Pietro Piazza
TimeIV – XVII sec.
DescriptionThe Basilica di San Pietro was erected on the spot where the apostle Peter was buried. The sepulchre of the first bishop of Rome, a simple ditch dug in the earth, is a few metres below the modern day floor level, corresponding to the present Altare della Confessione.The first basilica was erected between around 319 and 324 by the emperor Constantine. He wanted the position of the altar to coincide with the sepulchre of Peter. Constantine’s basilica, the appearance of which we know thanks to numerous textual and iconographic sources, had five naves and a transept and was preceded by a large colonnaded quadrangle, The construction of the new basilica, undertaken in 1506 by Giulio II (Giuliano della Rovere 1503-1513), continued for more than a century with numerous changes to the design.The basilica’s current façade, designed by Carlo Maderno (1556-1629) between 1607 and 1614, is proceeded by a stairway on three levels, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) and built at the same time as the vast Piazza San Pietro, a monumental ellipse constructed between 1656 and 1667. The façade of the basilica is entirely encircled by a single, gigantic order of columns and Corinthian pilasters which frame a central portico flanked by two arches and, above, nine balconies, the central of which is known as the loggia of the Benedictions: from here, the Pope looks out to give solemn benedictions and from where the election of the new pope is announced. The façade culminates in an attic divided by pilasters crowned by 13 gigantic statues depicting Christ, the Baptist and all the apostles except St Peter. The basilica is surmounted by the immense cupola designed by Michelangelo (1475-1564) and completed by Giacomo della Porta (1532-1602) and Domenico Fontana (1543-1607) between 1588 and 1589: the dome rests on a base divided into 16 buttresses and surrounded by an order of twin Corinthian columns in a tambour (almost completed on the death of Michelangelo). Subdivided into 16 wedges, it contains three orders of windows.


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