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Saint Peter's baldachin (Italian: baldacchino) is a large sculpted bronze canopy (or baldachin) designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and located over the high altar and beneath the dome of the Saint Peter's Basilicamarker in the Vatican Citymarker. The baldachin was intended to mark, in a monumental way, the place of Saint Peter's tomb. Commissioned by Pope Urban VIII, work began in July 1623 and ended in 1633.

The baldachin was the first of Bernini's works to mix sculpture and architecture and represents an important development in the Baroque design of church interiors and furnishing. The form of the structure was loosely based on the traditional ciborium or architectural pavilion found above the altars of many churches in Italymarker. However, Bernini's design incorporates features drawn from the funerary catafalque and from the traditional cloth canopy known as a baldacchino that was carried above the head of the pope on Holy Day, hence it is known as Saint Peter's baldachin.

The work was executed by Bernini in collaboration with numerous colleagues, including Francesco Borromini who contributed to the design of the architectonic structure, and Stefano Maderno, Fran├žois Duquesnoy, Andrea Bolgi, Giuliano Finelli and Luigi Bernini who contributed to the sculptural decoration.


Saint Peter's baldachin is a structure standing over the raised podium on which rests the high altar of the basilica and marking the place beneath which Saint Peter is believed to have been buried. The baldachin is composed of a bronze canopy resting upon four bronze columns, each of which stands on a high marble plinth.

The four columns are each high and have a twisting (tortile) shape (definitive of the Solomonic column) designed to evoke the shape of columns once thought to have been brought to the Vatican City from Solomon's Templemarker and used for the ciborium of the Old Saint Peter's Basilica. The shaft of each column was cast in three sections. They are crossed by nature-inspired motif which include laurel leaves, the symbol of poetry which was a passion of Pope Urban VIII, and a symbol of heroism in the Classical world. Lizards among the foliage symbolise rebirth and the search of God. Bees, which were a symbol of the Urban's Barberini family are found both on the columns and their bases.

Upon the four columns rests a cornice which sways inward at each side in a Baroque manner. It is surmounted by four scrolls, rising like dolphins' backs to support a smaller trabeated level, echoing the cornice in form. This is surmounted by a gilded ball and cross. Gilded angels, the work of Borromini, stand above each column, as a terminal and buttress to each scroll. From the cornice hangs a bronze semblance of the scalloped and tasselled border that usually trim the papal baldacchino.

The baldachin stands beneath the dome at the visual centre of the basilica. Although it is a very large structure, it forms a visual link between the enormous scale of the building, and the human scale of the papal altar and the people who serve at it during the Mass. Being of an open form, the baldachin does not restrict vision of people who are in the nave and look towards the elaborate sculptured group in the exedra, created by Bernini to elevate the Cathedra Petri (or Chair of Saint Peter).

The bronze for the baldachin was taken from the ceiling of the Pantheonmarker's portico. Pasquinomarker , a Roman satirist, issued the following saying: Quod non fecerunt barbari, fecerunt Barberini ("What the barbarians did not do, the Barberini did"). However, according to at least one expert , Urban's accounts state that about ninety percent of the bronze from the Pantheon was used for a cannon, and that the bronze for the baldachin came from Venicemarker [470394].

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External links


[470395]Huddersfield Parish Church UK Sir John Ninian Comper 19th Century English Gothic Revival Architect*]

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