Postcard From Italy

Today's "postcard from Italy" shows one of the most dominating features of the interior of St. Peter's basilica in the Vatican - the baldacchino (the huge bronze canopy) - designed by the great Baroque sculptor, painter and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the 1620s.

Along with Renaissance master Michelangelo, Bernini had much to do with the look of the basilica we see today. Bernini’s talents were sublime to say the least.

Bernini’s baldacchino

Loads of amazing details all over this huge structure. Look really carefully at the top. There are small convex sections of the canopy, that run in-between the top of the columns. In a few of those sections there is sculpted groups of three distinct details:

Those are bees. That is the family symbol of the very wealthy Barberini family. Pope Urban VIII was a Barberini, and during his papacy he commissioned Bernini to design, among other things, the baldacchino. He wanted to make sure that all future generations who looked upon this structure remembered that fact.

Well, it worked! Kind of unfortunately for us today, figures of authority who commissioned buildings and sculptures during the Renaissance and Baroque periods, took loads of existing materials from the surrounding Roman ruins and used them to build their new structures. Materials like stone, marble and iron were extracted from buildings of classical antiquity, which served to ruin them even further.

“Pope Urban VIII” painted by Bernini

During Pope Urban’s time there was a popular saying that went like this: “What the barbarians didn't take from ancient Rome, the Barberini did.”

To watch a video on Bernini, click HERE.


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