During the Renaissance period, architects started to experiment & create buildings that are unsymmetrical, and curvy, & use ornate decorations to break symmetrical lines in buildings.
These experiments gave birth to the Baroque era which occurred or started in the 17th century at the hands of many Renaissance architects. Built-in Vatican City, Italy, the St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the most significant buildings that come from that period. Moreover, it is considered one of the biggest projects during the Baroque period.
That is because of its total area of 44000 square meters. On the same note, the height of the St. Peter’s Basilica is no less than 219 meters. The new Baroque renovation occurred several centuries after the original St. Peter’s Basilica was built by the Roman Empire ordered by Emperor Constantinople. The Basilica itself is famous and important because it is believed that the tomb of Saint Peter is located below the altar of the Basilica. This fact yields the purpose for the construction of this church in the first place.
It was built as a funerary Church, for Saint Peter and other Christians who wanted to be buried next to him.
Around 7 architects & artists have worked to transform this Basilica into a Baroque-style church. Donato Bramante was the first architect who was ordered to rebuild the church and he worked with his assistant Antonio Da Sangallo which in turn emphasized the work of the Pauline chapel. Strengthening the existing foundation was a must before starting with other renovations.
And for this job, Fra Giocondo was assigned. Giocondo worked for hand in hand with Raphael; however, their plan was not executed. One of the famous contributors to this building was none other than Michelangelo, Which designed the grand dome of the Basilica. It’s worth mentioning that Michelangelo passed away years before the dome was completed. As well, he designed the crossing & exterior (excluding the façades) of the Basilica. When Michelangelo passed away Carlo Maderno took over and continued the dome, added the nave & designed the façade. The grand piazza that is placed ahead of the Basilica and which leads you to the Cathedral was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
The interior of St. Peter’s Basilica is made of BaroBaroque-starchitecture. This is done by having unsymmetrical designs on its walls, along with little angels scattered throughout. This was completely different than the old Basilica which was clean, simple, & was proportional. The interior is mostly made from bronze and gilt. The floor plan of the Basilica resembled the Latin cross; therefore it had a cruciform shape. In this cruciform-shaped church, interlocking spaces were created along with centralized organizations. Marble and concrete are the main materials that were used to construct St. Peter’s Basilica. Other materials that were as well used in some parts of the building were; stone, limestone, mosaic, timber, roof tiles etch; The column shafts had granite and marble cladding on them. The dome, which weighs around 14000 tons, was built using masonry. Worth mentioning, that the dome was held together with curvy beams. To give support and strength to the dome, iron bands were encircled on the base of the dome itself.
The piazza of the basilica is composed of an oval form. It has a central axis that leads directly toward the St. Peter’s basilica. An Egyptian obelisk stands in the center of this piazza with all the circulation happenings around it. It is 25.5 meters in height. Carlo Maderno, who designed the facades as well, designed the fountains to create some sort of symmetry. The fountains are the foci of the oval piazza that is made by its colonnades. The main elements of this piazza are the 248 colonnades that run in an oval direction hugging the piazza, which in turn is 320m long and 240m wide. The colonnades are cladded with travertine. Doric columns can be found a couple of columns down from the colonnades and they create three different passages for the visitors, two for pedestrians & one for carriages. Above the colonnade,s 96 statues designed by Bernini are placed. The traditional Baroque style and the creativity of the architect Bernini allow having an optical illusion and different perspectives as one approaches the piazza. This is done by using colonnades, and both the trapezoidal and elliptical shapes of the piazza. The pilgrims would have to pass near ten angels while entering the piazza this is to help them have a spiritual feeling as soon as possible. When the pilgrim reaches the piazza, they will feel the openly lighted space that resembles heaven. Worth mentioning, that Bernini worked to define depth, illusion, void, solid, light, and dark.
Many factors make this building pure baroque. Materials are one of the factors that categorized this building perfectly as a Baroque-style building. In the Baroque era, most of the materials used were marble, gilt, and bronze. All three of these materials were widely used in the interior and the exterior of this Basilica. The scattering of little angels, which are used as decorations of the interior, is also known during the Baroque period. The ceiling of the dome is the most significant element that represents Baroque. It contains frescos and murals. A mural is an art technique that produces very strong realistic imagery. This creates an optical illusion that allows objects to look three-dimensional instead of two-dimensional paintings.
In conclusion, the St. Peter’s Basilica is a significant building that transitioned from Renaissance architecture to Baroque architecture. Along the decades of being built, many architects contributed to building this masterpiece, worth mentioning that is mostly built by unbyenaissance architects. Materials that were widely used in cladding a building in the Baroque period were all used to construct the Basilica. With all its optical illusions and depiction from the Baroque era, St. Peter’s basilica is a typical Baroque architecture.