Bramante, et.al., Saint Peter’s Basilica

Bramante, et.al., Saint Peter’s Basilica


[MUSIC PLAYING] SPEAKER 1: We’re standing
in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City in Rome. And it is one of the largest,
most ornate spaces I’ve ever been in. I shouldn’t say one of the most. It is the most. [LAUGHS] SPEAKER 2: And
that was the idea. Pope Julius II, who commissioned
the rebuilding of this church in the early 16th century,
said to Bramante– the first architect–
said, make me the most magnificent, biggest
church in all of Christendom. And so that’s what he did. SPEAKER 1: Ultimately,
yes, that’s what we have. But that’s not what this
place was originally. If you go back to the
Ancient Roman era, this was Nero’s Circus, a place
where games were performed, sporting events were performed. This was a place where Nero,
himself, apparently actually rode a chariot. SPEAKER 2: And it
was also a place where there was an ancient
necropolis, a burial ground, and by tradition, the place
where Saint Peter, himself, was crucified and then buried. The early Christians created
a monument on that site. SPEAKER 1: Apparently
quite small and humble. SPEAKER 2: And then Constantine
builds a church on this site. Because after all, Saint
Peter is the first pope– the first leader of the church–
given that job by Christ, himself. SPEAKER 1: And that would’ve
been the fourth century, so actually very early. That church– Constantine’s
Saint Peter’s– lasted for 1,000 years– a little more. SPEAKER 2: Early
1500s, Pope Julius II, a very ambitious pope. SPEAKER 1: Julius had
this extraordinary vision. And he brought together some
of the most talented artists to develop this
extraordinary space. SPEAKER 2: Beginning with the
great High Renaissance artist Bramante, who did the initial
plans for the rebuilding of Saint Peter’s,
through the great artists Raphael and Michelangelo of the
High Renaissance– as you said, the greatest minds
of the Renaissance and then later the Baroque,
in the early and mid 1600s, worked on this building. SPEAKER 1: Bramante understood
this church as distinct from the way most churches
had been built– that is, borrowing from the Ancient
Roman basilica plan. SPEAKER 2: And most churches
that anyone probably knows are basilica plan. It’s a very practical
kind of plan for a church. It’s got a long central area. It allows for easy passage
of large numbers of people. It focuses on the altar. And so it was– SPEAKER 1: And it
just worked well. SPEAKER 2: It works really well. SPEAKER 1: But that’s
not what Bramante wanted. SPEAKER 2: No. And that makes sense. And if you understand
the mindset of the High Renaissance, where there
is an enormous interest in mathematics and in
ideal perfect beauty and finding perfect proportions,
Bramante’s first design for Saint Peter’s was very
much based on those ideas. It was a Greek cross with equal
arms instead of one longer arm. And it was inscribed
within a square, with this dome over the
center, and smaller domes. SPEAKER 1: And in
essence, it really was a series of perfect
circles and perfect squares. But Bramante’s design
didn’t survive. SPEAKER 2: No. But people went back
and forth to it. But ultimately, what we
ended up with in the end is an extension of one
of the arms of the cross. And so the plan ultimately
does follow a basilica format. That perfect geometric
form gave way to the practical
needs of the church to hold large numbers of
people and to focus attention on the altar. SPEAKER 1: So after
Bramante, Raphael has a hand in the design. And ultimately, it
passes to Michelangelo. What Michelangelo was able to
do before the later Baroque additions was to
expand on, simplify, and clarify Bramante’s
original ideas. And his work can
be seen in the dome and on the exterior of the
three sides of the church that were not extended. And then, of course, Maderno
will add his Baroque facade. SPEAKER 2: And
Bernini will decorate the interior of the church
during the Baroque era, as well– with the baldacchino,
the Cathedra Petri– and will also extend
the front of the church, creating the piazza–
the Saint Peter’s Square. SPEAKER 1: That’s right. Those extraordinary arms–
that double colonnade. SPEAKER 2: Right. So there’s a century and a half
or so of work on this church– a series of great architects
and sculptors who work on it. It all works in the end. SPEAKER 1: It really
comes together. And it is one of the
most magnificent spaces on the face of the earth. [MUSIC PLAYING]

3 Replies to “Bramante, et.al., Saint Peter’s Basilica”

  1. Just discovered these amazing videos!! Thank you so much for making this, I'm about to gorge myself on Art History!

  2. Thank you for your passionate whirlwind tour of this magnificent edifice. You made it educational and fun.

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