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There is a lot of beautiful architecture in this world, old and modern and then you get the crap that developers impose to make a fast buck by proposing buildings designed by a computer program. Here is one example of decorative architecture which followed a plan, an idea and involved the beauty of art in the Baroque Era.


View of the bronze baldacchino of the Papal Altar in St-Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. The bronze came from the coffered ceiling of the pantheon. Designed and built by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) who was chief architect and decorator of the Basilica with his arch competitor Francesco Boromini.

Truly an impressive monument amongst many in St-Peter. The Basilica is probably the least used church in all of Christendom, used only for Papal Masses and State occasions at the Holy See. On most days it is seen by thousands of tourists and does have the feel of a museum.

The bronze and gilded baldachin was the first of Bernini’s works to combine sculpture and architecture and represents an important development in Baroque church interior design and furnishing. The canopy rests upon four helical columns each of which stands on a high marble plinth. The columns support a cornice which curves inwards in the middle of each side. Above this, four twice life size angels stand at the corners behind whom four large volutes rise up to a second smaller cornice which in turn supports the gilded cross on a sphere, a symbol of the world redeemed by Christianity.

The four columns are 20 metres or 66 feet high. From the cornice hangs a bronze semblance of the scalloped and tasselled border that typically trimmed the papal baldacchino. The structure is decorated with detailed motifs including heraldic emblems of the Barberini family (Pope Urban VIII was born Maffeo Barberini) such as bees and laurel leaves.


There are many things to see inside St-Peter’s Basilica but this one element is well worth looking at in detail. The other part of the Basilica is the ruins of the original St-Peter’s from the fourth century immediately beneath the Papal Altar and the Via Cornelia Roman cemetery which dates backs to Republican times. Entrance to that site is by reservation only on specific days. A fascinating place and the highlight of any visit to Rome.