Roma Divi Petri Templum
Joann Andreas Graff Noriberg and Joann Ulricus Kraus
“Roma Divi Petri Templvm”
Framed size: 82 1/4" x 74"
This intricately detailed and wall-sized engraving of St. Peter’s Basilica fully captures the depth and beauty of the architectural and spiritual center of the Roman Catholic Church. In addition to the central depiction of St. Peter’s main altar, which is embellished by Gianlorenzo Bernini’s (1598-1680) breathtaking baldachino (a pavilion above the main altar). The architectural engraving contains five inset representations of the cathedral’s aerial layout: a nave, St. Peter’s Square, the exterior of the Basilica and Bernini’s stunning Cathedra Petri (throne).
The Basilica of Saint Peter, officially known as the Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano, is located within Vatican City in Rome. It is considered one of the holiest sites in the world and serves as the burial site of its namesake, Saint Peter, the first Bishop of Antioch and Rome and the first Pope. Churches have stood on this site since at least the 4th century. Indeed, it was here that Charlemagne and many other emperors and Popes were crowned. In the fifteenth century, Pope Nicholas V undertook the rebuilding of the choir and transepts after a design by Bernardo Rossellino. In 1452 the work was begun, and part of the choir was built.
Pope Julius II decided that the entire church should be rebuilt, and in 1506 appointed Bramante as the architect. He appears to have originally planned a symmetrical Greek cross with a great dome over the center. Bramante was succeeded by Raphael (1514), Antonio da San Gallo (1520), and Michelangelo (1547), who completed the building up to the drum of the great dome. Ciacomo della Porta modified the design and completed the dome.
Throughout the sixteenth century there was controversy over the final form in which the church would be built; the centralized Greek cruciform plan or the shape of a Latin cross. The problem was resolved in favor of the Latin cross plan. The church was dedicated by Urban VIII in 1626. Between 1629 and 1662 Bernini completed the great composition of St. Peter’s, creating a forecourt preceded by a majestic elliptical piazza bounded by quadruple colonnades.
The huge scale of all the elements of the interior prevents any accurate notion of its magnitude, and its effectiveness is chiefly due to the dome, which is 404 feet high from the pavement. The interior diameter of the dome, 137 feet, is one of the largest in the world. Beneath it is the high altar covered by Bernini’s superb bronze baldachino. At this altar only the Pope may read Mass. The interior with its colored marbles, its sculptures, and its gilt and fresco decorations gives an effect of multi-colored space.
Many of Noriberg and Kraus’ images have become iconic, and, thus, have provided posterity with a marvelous and painstakingly accurate record of what “the greatest of all churches of Christendom” looked like at the end of the seventeenth century.