StPeters_Ext_Archit

St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican is probably the world’s largest church
and it is far and away the largest Renaissance building. Built between 1506
and 1626, it stands over the original basilica built on the site of Nero’s Circus
by Emperor Constantine in the 4th century. The church is approached through
St. Peter’s Square, the architectural masterpiece of GianLorenzo Bernini.

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St. Peter’s Facade
Bernini’s Colonnade
Pontifical Swiss Guards

Carlo Maderno’s Portico ceiling
Equestrian Statue of Charlemagne

Nuns at St. Peter’s
Details at Dusk
St. Peter’s Sunset Views

St. Peter’s Basilica at Night
Interior Architecture (teasers)

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
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Direct Link to images of St. Peter’s Basilica

There are a number of images in this section that are not yet on the Photoshelter site.
If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).

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StPeters_8023


St. Peter’s 8023
1500 x 1083 (440 KB)

A view of the facade and dome of St. Peter’s Basilica from Via della Conciliazione.

St. Peter’s is built over the burial place of St. Peter, and there has been a church on the Vatican hill since 322, when the first basilica was built by Constantine atop an existing cemetery (within which a tomb was found from the second century burial of the Julii family containing the earliest Christian mosaics — on the ceiling vault is the earliest representation of Christ, the mosaic known as Christ-Helios). It was the site of Caligula’s Circus, where Nero crucified St. Peter. Constantine built his original apse over the grave of St. Peter, using considerable labor to cut into the rock of the hill and extend a level platform to the south. He oriented his basilica in the reverse of the direction that later Christian churches would take... he put the entrance to the east so the rising sun would fall on the high altar (Constantine was a sun-worshiper when he was younger, and Roman Christians associated Christ with the god of the rising sun).

The present basilica was started in 1506 under Julius II (by Donato Bramante, to the top of the piers) and completed in 1626. Michelangelo is the most significant artist and architect associated with St. Peter’s (he swept away the corrupt clan who had been supervising the construction under Bramante and Sangallo). It was Michelangelo who abandoned the concept of corner towers, and changed the shape for the design of the dome to that which we see today. Quite a bit of the work had been done by Bramante and Sangallo (although Sangallo altered Bramante’s original design, intending to create a ring of chapels that made little sense to anyone but Sangallo... this was squelched by Michelangelo, and he simplified the interior by reducing it from multiple components to a single congruous part, while adding light with the attic windows). The facade was designed by Maderno (a lot of controversy was associated with his design). Numerous other famous artists were involved in the design and construction, including GianLorenzo Bernini.

StPeters_Sunset_7809


St. Peter’s Sunset 7809
1500 x 990 (389 KB)

St. Peter’s Basilica and Bernini’s Colonnade in the mauve light after sunset.
More images taken at sunset, at dusk and at night are at the bottom of this page.

Michelangelo designed the famous dome, and it was intended to rival Brunelleschi’s dome in Florence. The dome is the tallest in the world at 448 ft. It is just slightly smaller in diameter than the Pantheon and Brunelleschi’s dome. The design, as executed by Michelangelo, is quite similar to that of the dome in Florence, as he also used two shells of brick, the outer having 16 stone ribs (twice the number used by Brunelleschi). Michelangelo died before the dome was completed, but he left some drawings and a wooden model, and it was completed by Giacomo della Porta and Domenico Fontana in 1590, although they did not execute the massive sculptures Michelangelo intended to stand upon the buttresses of the drum to stabilize the mass. Michelangelo prepared the dome with double support columns to act as buttresses when he was thinking of creating a hemispherical dome. When the design was changed (as he often did) to make the dome more ovoid, it was decided that the support was not needed, as the buttresses were barely stressed by the more vertical shape.

StPeters_Colonnade_7587


St. Peter’s Colonnade 7587
1500 x 1125 (511 KB)

The Constantine Wing (north side) of Bernini’s Colonnade in Piazza San Pietro, an elliptical forest of 284 Doric columns, four rows deep, creating three aisles (the middle is widest).

StPeters_Colonnade_7589


St. Peter’s Colonnade 7589
1500 x 1110 (520 KB)

On the left is Carlo Maderno’s Fountain (1612). Bernini designed a matching fountain in 1675 on the opposite side of the piazza. The piazza is divided by strips of travertine.

StPeters_Colonnade_7586


St. Peter’s Colonnade 7586
1500 x 1125 (559 KB)

St. Peter’s Square is Bernini’s design. Created in the shape of a trapezoid, it widens as it nears St. Peters, narrowing the apparent width of the overly wide facade. The outer section of the piazza is an ellipse, sloping down towards the obelisk at the center. The two areas are framed by the colonnade with an opening at the entry end that is the same size as the ‘neck’ of the trapezoid leading to the basilica. The overall effect is very dramatic, especially when approaching from the Via della Conciliazione, as seen in the frontal shot at the top of the page.

The first stone for the Colonnade was laid in 1657 but work didn’t really begin until 1659. They were completed in the form we see today in 1666. Bernini’s design is intended to create a picture with the Dome being the head and the Colonnade the “Arms of Mother Church” (Bernini’s description), gathering the faithful into their folds. The design also took into account the position of the obelisk, which could not be shifted again and had to be made the focus of the entire scheme. He used the obelisk as the hub of the new piazza and created the Colonnade around it with the distance to the Basilica facade determining the radius.

Never had anything like Bernini’s free-standing elliptical colonnade existed in previous architecture. The originality of the design and its subtle beauty even survived the 19th century critics of the Baroque period who despised Bernini. Even they thought his design created the most beautiful piazza in the world.

StPeters_Colonnade_7584


St. Peter’s Colonnade 7584
778 x 1290 (322 KB)

The view down the middle aisle of Bernini’s Colonnade.

StPeters_Colonnade_7590


St. Peter’s Colonnade 7590
787 x 1290 (341 KB)

The Coat of Arms of Pope Alexander VII over the Tuscan entablature, supported by Doric columns of the Colonnade.

StPeters_Colonnade_7795


St. Peter’s Colonnade 7795
795 x 1290 (386 KB)

A nun walking down the central aisle of Bernini’s Colonnade.

VaticanGuard_7787


Vatican Guard 7787
795 x 1290 (293 KB)

A halberdier of the Pontifical Swiss Guard standing watch.

VaticanGuard_7784


Vatican Guard 7784
795 x 1290 (235 KB)

The non-commissioned officer in charge of this area.

VaticanGuards_7788


Vatican Guards 7788
1500 x 1092 (317 KB)

The NCO passes the halberdier during a short inspection tour.

The Pontifical Swiss Guard was formed in 1506 under Julius II.
It is responsible for the safety of the Pope and the security of the Palace.

StPeters_PorticoCeiling_7591M


St. Peter’s Portico Ceiling 7591 M
1000 x 1600 (681 KB)

The portico (Narthex) ceiling, designed by Carlo Maderno in 1612.
It is a long barrel vault decorated with gilt stucco and small windows in the pendentives.

StPeters_Equestrian_Charlemagne_7778M


St. Peter’s Equestrian Charlemagne 7778 M
1000 x 1600 (413 KB)

At the south end of the portico is Cornacchini’s Equestrian statue of Charlemagne, designed in 1725 as a bookend to the Equestrian statue of Constantine by Bernini on the north end of the portico. The design is quite similar to the famous Equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius on the Capitoline (right).

MarcusAurelius_Equestrian_7422


Marcus Aurelius Equestrian 7422
795 x 1290 (374 KB)

Note that both statues depict the Emperor riding without the use of stirrups. In Marcus Aurelius case, it is because the stirrup was not invented in the West until the late 6th century, but by 800 (the time of Charlemagne) they were in wide use. Also note the position of the right arm of both statues.

StPeters_Equestrian_Charlemagne_detail_7778M


St. Peter’s Equestrian Charlemagne detail 7778 M
1500 x 1380 (693 KB)

A large detail crop of the Equestrian Statue of Charlemagne, by Agostino Cornacchini (1725).

One thing that is interesting is that while painted and drawn representations of Charlemagne
riding have all shown him with stirrups, the sculptures which I have seen are all without stirrups.

MarcusAurelius_Equestrian_7420M


Marcus Aurelius Equestrian 7420 M
1500 x 1290 (591 KB)

A large detail crop of the Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius on the Capitoline Hill.

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Rome Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

Direct Link to images of St. Peter’s Basilica

There are a number of images in this section that are not yet on the Photoshelter site.
If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).

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There are 18 Galleries in the Photoshelter Rome Collection

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Nuns_StPeters_7804


Nuns St. Peter’s 7804
1500 x 1092 (395 KB)

This scene reminded me of one of those puzzles:

Multiply the Nuns without name-tags times the Nuns without glasses;
Subtract the standing Nun, add the non-Nuns, and subtract the group of Nuns.

What are you left with?

None.

I probably should have warned you that there was a pun involved.

StPeters_ColonnadeSaints_Dusk_7796


St. Peter’s Colonnade Saints Dusk 7796
1500 x 1092 (338 KB)

Coat of Arms of Pope Alexander VII by GianLorenzo Bernini, with the Chigi family (Siena) mountains and star on the shield.

StPetersDome_Dusk_7798


St. Peter’s Dome Dusk 7798
1500 x 1092 (421 KB)

Michelangelo’s Dome and the Valadier clock at dusk.
The clock contains the heraldic symbols of Pope Pius VI.

StPeters_Lantern_7793


St. Peter’s Lantern 7793
795 x 1290 (378 KB)

These lanterns are all around St. Peter’s Square and the Colonnade.

StPeters_Sunset_7808


St. Peter’s Sunset 7808
1500 x 1140 (414 KB)

When I stepped outside of St. Peter’s and saw the sky had a gap in the western clouds and the clouds
in the east were relatively thick, I stayed around until the lowering sun painted the clouds in the east and
cast their reflected light back on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica. The mauve light was truly beautiful.

StPeters_Sunset_7813


St. Peter’s Sunset 7813
1500 x 1092 (512 KB)

The light added an entirely different look to Maderno’s facade. I stuck around as long as the light did
and shot several different angles to present each view which seemed aesthetically pleasing to me.

StPeters_Sunset_7823


St. Peter’s Sunset 7823
1500 x 1092 (444 KB)

Carlo Maderno’s facade is 376 feet wide and 149 feet tall, with enormous Corinthian columns
and a central pediment, surmounted by a large attic topped with 13 sculptures and two clocks.

While Maderno was faithful to Michelangelo’s design, many critics consider the attic to weighty,
the facade too wide for its height, and too far in front of the dome. To alleviate the height issue,
Maderno planned twin bell towers, but this project had to be stopped when the ground subsided
in 1621. Bernini tried to restart the project in 1646, but cracks in the facade stopped the project.

Bernini’s rival Borromini accused him of making mistakes in the calculations for the towers, and
convinced the Pope he was right. Bernini had to pay the costs to demolish the bell towers down
to the level of the attic (which made the facade even wider than it already was). The columns of
the only tower which had been completed were used in the churches in Piazza del Popolo, and
in 1790 Giuseppe Valadier designed the twin clocks standing above the corners of the facade.

StPeters_Sunset_7830


St. Peter’s Sunset 7830
1500 x 1083 (467 KB)

The two statues of St. Peter and St. Paul at the base of Bernini’s steps on either side of the facade
were created by Giuseppe de Fabris and Adam Tadaolini in 1847 to replace the earlier sculptures
from 1461. The statues atop the attic are Jesus in the center, flanked by St. John the Baptist and
eleven of the Apostles (St. Peter is depicted inside the basilica by Arnolfo di Cambio’s statue).

StPeters_Sunset_detail_7829M


St. Peter’s Sunset detail 7829 M
1500 x 1290 (550 KB)

A large detail crop from the same angle as the previous image.

StPeters_PonteSantAngelo_7077


St. Peter’s Ponte sant’Angelo 7077
1500 x 1092 (542 KB)

The view of Ponte sant’Angelo and St. Peter’s Basilica from Castel sant’Angelo.

StPeters_PonteSantAngelo_7078


St. Peter’s Ponte sant’Angelo 7078
789 x 1290 (426 KB)

To Shoot the Impossible Shot
(to the music of Impossible Dream)
 

The first image (7077, above) was taken with an 85mm lens, hand-held at 1/8 second at f/4. The image at left (7078) was also taken with the 85mm, 5/8 second at f/4, and the following image (7088) was taken with a 135mm lens, also hand-held at 1/5 second at f/4. There is a reason why I am giving you the shooting information...

For those folks who have some experience with cameras, you’ll realize that these shots should have been impossible.

The rule of thumb for hand-held shots is 1/focal length, which means with a 135mm lens, you should use 1/125 or so to get an acceptable yield for a static subject like this. With a lot of practice, you can improve your technique and probably achieve an acceptable yield at half that shutter speed (e.g. 1/60 or so).  I have had quite a lot of experience shooting inside dark museums and churches (especially in Rome and Florence), and have developed a stable hand-held technique, but these three images should have been beyond the realm of possibility.

Still, I was going to take them... I was there, and if I had to throw the shots out later, so be it.

Imagine my shock when I processed these images.

That sound you hear is me patting myself on the back.
 

 

StPeters_PonteSantAngelo_7088


St. Peter’s Ponte sant’Angelo 7088
1500 x 1092 (432 KB)

St. Peter’s Basilica and Ponte san’t Angelo from Castel sant’Angelo
135mm hand-held, 1/5 second at f/4. The Impossible Shot realized.

PonteSisto_StPeters_7848


Ponte Sisto St. Peter’s 7848
1500 x 1075 (384 KB)

The image above is another Impossible Shot. This scene, Ponte Sisto with St. Peter’s Dome above,
was taken hand-held with the 85mm lens at 1/4 second, f/4. My back is getting sore from being patted.

StPeters_RightNave_piers2-3_7650M


St. Peter’s Right Nave piers 2-3 7650 M
937 x 1600 (442 KB)

Two teasers from the St. Peter’s Interiors page. This is a shot across the nave of the arch between piers 2 and 3, showing the immense height of the nave of St. Peter’s Basilica.

StPeters_BerniniBaldachino_7652M


St. Peter’s Bernini Baldachino 7652 M
976 x 1600 (568 KB)

St. Peter’s is probably the largest church in the world, and it dwarfs the largest bronze structure on the planet. Bernini’s Baldachino is 98 feet tall and uses 100,000 pounds of bronze stripped from the portico ceiling of the Pantheon.

StPeters_Interiors_display


Click the display composite above to visit the St. Peter’s Interiors page

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Rome Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

Direct Link to images of St. Peter’s Basilica

There are a number of images in this section that are not yet on the Photoshelter site.
If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).

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There are 18 Galleries in the Photoshelter Rome Collection

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