Le Flâneur Bleu

Jonathan Myles-Lea is a British artist and photographer. He also lectures about art, architecture and the history of gardens.

Tuesday 23 October 2012


Swiss Guard outside The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican

Facade of The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican

The main facade of The Papal Basilica decorated with images of saints

Papal crest on the barrel vaulted ceiling of the portico of St. Peter's Basilica.

Saint Peter's baldachin (Italianbaldacchino) is a large Baroque sculpted bronze canopy, technically called a ciborium or baldachin, over the high altar of Saint Peter's Basilica in Vatican City,Rome, which is at the centre of the crossing and directly under the dome. Designed by the Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini, it was intended to mark, in a monumental way, the place of Saint Peter's tomb underneath. Under its canopy is the High Altar of the basilica. Commissioned by Pope Urban VIII, the work began in 1623 and ended in 1634. The baldachin acts as a visual focus within the basilica; it itself is a very large structure and forms a visual mediation between the enormous scale of the building and the human scale of the people officiating at the religious ceremonies at the papal altar beneath its canopy.

The baldachino standing at the crossing of the basilica. 

The bronze used for the baldachin was probably removed from the Pantheon’s pronaos, a story which gave rise to a saying, “quod non fecerunt barbari fecerunt Barberini” (“what the barbarians didn’t do, was done by the Barberini”). The baldachin has four colossal, twisted columns, splendidly fluted and decorated with olive and laurel branches, ending in a composite capital. The covering has extremely elegant volutes and statues on each corner, and is crowned by a gilded bronze sphere. Note the tassels with bees (an emblem of the Barberini family, symbolizing their industriousness), which almost seem to rustle in an imaginary wind. A gold dove inside represents the Holy Spirit. Underneath this structure is the “Tomb of Saint Peter”, where, according to tradition, the remains of the Apostle are kept, making it one of the places most venerated by Christians. Recent archaeological evidence seems to confirm this tradition. Above the baldachin is the majestic dome, with paintings on the inside, modelled between 1603 and 1613 after cartoons by Giuseppe Cesari. Along the base is a gold inscription in Latin, which reads, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church, and I will give you the keys to heaven.”

The great dome of Saint Peter's. The dome of St. Peter's rises to a total height of 136.57 metres (448.1 ft) from the floor of the basilica to the top of the external cross. It is the tallest dome in the world.
Giacomo della Porta and Fontana brought the dome to completion in 1590 but is what originally designed by Michelanglo in 1547.

 The Alexander VII monument by the sculptor Bernini is one of the most haunting corners St. Peter's Basilica. Death, the winged skeleton, emerges from drapery to hold out an hour-glass while Alexander prays without noticing that his time is up. Four statues representing the virtues of Alexander surround the pontiff: Charity, Truth, Prudence, and Justice

Detail of the Alexander VII monument by the sculptor Bernini

Interior of dome in the south transept of St Peter's Basilica

Rays of light penetrating the north transept of St Peter's

Father Jacob talking to visitors

Father Jacob explaining the Light of the Divine.

Bernini's stained glass window in St. Peter's Basilica with the statue of St Peter in the foreground.
St Peter is portrayed as he gives a blessing and preaches, while holding the keys to the kingdom of heaven is famous throughout the world. Some scholars have attributed it to Arnolfo di Cambio (1245-1302), but others believe that it is a V century casting.
Pilgrims who come to the Basilica traditionally touch and kiss its foot, so that it is literally worn thin. In the Middle Ages pilgrims who reached Rome, touched and kissed the foot of the statue and prayed to St. Peter asking that he be merciful and open the gates of heaven for them if they died during the pilgrimage.

Base of the polished marble columns in the nave.

Heavily gilded detail of the interior of St Peter's

The great dome soars above the altar and the baldacchino, sumptuously embellished with mosaic and stucco ornaments. It is supported by four structural piers with a perimeter of 71 m. and a height of 120m. from the ground to the roof of the lantern.
The giant letters on a gold background, from St. Veronica to St. Helen, say "Hinc una fides mundo refulgent" (From here a single faith shines throughout the world); and from St. Longinus to St. Andrew: "Hinc sacerdotii unitas exoritur" (From here is born the unity of the priesthood).
In the four spandrels which link the square piers and the circular drum, the four Evangelists are portrayed in medallions with a diameter of 8.5 m.: Matthew with the ox, Mark with the lion, Luke with the angel and John with the eagle.
Around the base of the drum we can read the solemn words from Matthew's Gospel with which Jesus invests Peter with supreme authority. The text reads: "Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam mean et tibi dabo claves regni caelorum" ("You are 'Rock' and on this rock I will build my Church, to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven." Mt 16:18).
The gigantic black letters (2 m. high) of this text on a gold background are lit by the light from 16 large windows, typical of Michelangelo's style, which punctuate the drum.
Above the windows, the dome is divided into sixteen ribs and as many segments, decorated by majestic figures on six ascending concentric levels.
Starting at the bottom the figures portray:
1. busts of the 16 popes buried in the basilica; 2. majestic figures of Christ, the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. John the Baptist and various Apostles; 3. in the rectangular frames, angels bearing the instruments of Jesus' Passion; 4. the faces of cherubim and seraphim in circular medallions; 5. angels, the custodians of St. Peter's tomb. 6. additional faces of winged angels.

Many artists worked on these decorations. Clement VIII commissioned Giuseppe Cesari, known as Cavalier d'Arpino (1568-1640) to carry out the upper part of the decoration. He prepared the cartoons from 1603 to 1612. His drawings were simultaneously transposed into mosaic by the best mosaic artists of the period. 

View from the cupola of St Peter's Basilica

View from the cupola of St Peter's Basilica. On the left, the roof of the Pantheon is visible. 
On the right, The Victor Emmanuel Monument

View from beneath the portico of the Pantheon

Sculpted relief on a tomb in St Peter's Basilca

Swiss Guards outside St Peter's Basilica

Swiss Guard outside St Peter's Basilica

Chairs in Saint Peter's Square

The Pantheon is a magnificent ancient temple that was later converted into the church of Santa Maria ad Martyres. Dating from 125 AD, this is the most complete ancient building in Rome and one of the city's most spectacular sights. Until the 20th century, the Pantheon was the largest concrete structure in the world. Michelangelo studied its great dome before starting work on the dome ofSt. Peter's Basilica.
The Pantheon was dedicated to pan theos, "all the gods." When it became a church, it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and all the martyrs. The Pantheon is the burial place of several important Italians (including the artist Raphael), and it remains an active church. It is a major tourist destination and a popular place for weddings. The bronze doors leading into the building (which are original and were once covered in gold) weigh 20 tons each. The walls of the Pantheon are 7.5m (25 ft.) thick.

Contemporary Roman soldier

Roman Polizzi

The Villa Doria Pamphili is a seventeenth century villa with what is today the largest landscaped public park in RomeItaly. It is located in the quarter of Monteverde, on the Gianicolo (or the Roman Janiculum), just outside the Porta San Pancrazio in the ancient walls of Rome where the ancient road of the Via Aurelia commences.
It began as a villa for the Pamphili family and when the line died out in the eighteenth century, it passed to Prince Giovanni Andrea IV Doria from which time it has been known as the Villa Doria Pamphili

Formal box gardens of the Villa Doria Pamphili

Formal box gardens of the Villa Doria Pamphili

Formal box gardens of the Villa Doria Pamphili

Corinthian column supporting the portico of the Pantheon

The Pantheon from GreekΠάνθειον (ἱερόν), an adjective meaning "(temple consecrated) to all gods") is a building in RomeItaly, commissioned by Marcus Agrippa as a temple to all the gods of Ancient Rome, and rebuilt by Emperor Hadrian in about 126 AD.
The Pantheon is one of the best-preserved of all Roman buildings. It has been in continuous use throughout its history, and since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a Roman Catholic church dedicated to "St. Mary and the Martyrs" but informally known as "Santa Maria della Rotonda." 
The building is circular with a portico of large granite Corinthian columns (eight in the first rank and two groups of four behind) under a pediment. A rectangular vestibule links the porch to therotunda, which is under a cofferedconcrete dome, with a central opening (oculus) to the sky. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon's dome is still the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 43.3 metres (142 ft).

Detail of the 2nd Century concrete coffering inside the Pantheon

Roman house donning emerald tresses

Roman Polizzi

Devotional panel on the corner of a Roman building

Heavily fortified Renaissance building in Rome

The Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or "Fountain of the Four Rivers" designed by Bernini for Pope Innocent X with The church of Sant'Agnese in Agone in Piazza Navonna

The Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or "Fountain of the Four Rivers" designed by Bernini

The church of Sant'Agnese in Agone in Piazza Navonna

Figures on the 'Fountain of the Four Rivers' by Bernini

View from the Forum site including Trajan's Column.
The column is a Roman triumphal column in RomeItaly, that commemorates Roman emperor Trajan's victory in the Dacian Wars. It was probably constructed under the supervision of the architect Apollodorus of Damascus at the order of the Roman Senate. It is located in Trajan's Forum, built near the Quirinal Hill, north of the Roman Forum. Completed in AD 113, the freestanding column is most famous for its spiral bas relief, which artistically describes the epic wars between the Romans and Dacians (101–102 and 105–106). Its design has inspired numerous victory columns, both ancient and modern.

The Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II)—also known as the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Motherland) or Il Vittoriano—is a monument built to honor Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a unified Italy. The neo-classic structure in white marble occupies a site between the Piazza Venezia and the Capitoline Hill in Rome. Designed by Giuseppe Sacconi in 1885, it was inaugurated in 1911 and completed in 1935.

 Bronze equestrian sculpture of Victor Emmanuel 

Artist sketching on streets of Rome

Musei Capitolini

Sculpture on steps leading to Musei Capitolini

The Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius is an ancient Roman statue in the CampidoglioRomeItaly. It is made of bronze and stands 3.5 m tall. Although the emperor is mounted, it exhibits many similarities to standing statues of Augustus. The original is on display in the Capitoline Museums, with the one now standing in the open air of thePiazza del Campidoglio being a replica made in 1981 when the original was taken down for restoration.

River God sculpture on Capitoline Hill.
Originally a statue of the River God Tigris, this 2nd century AD statue was changed
to represent the Tiber after the Roman people expressed their desire to have it changed.
The head of the Tiger was altered to create a somewhat pug-nosed wolf (see the detail images)
and statues of Romulus and Remus were added to complete the transition to the Tiber.
The statue also holds a Cornucopia in the left hand, and reclines right on the wolf.

River God sculpture in Piazza del Campidoglio

River God sculpture in Piazza del Campidoglio

The Arch of Titus is a 1st-century honorific arch located on the Via SacraRome, just to the south-east of the Roman Forum. It was constructed in c.82 AD by theRoman Emperor Domitian shortly after the death of his older brother Titus to commemorate Titus' victories, including the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
The Arch of Titus has provided the general model for many of the triumphal arches erected since the 16th century—perhaps most famously it is the inspiration for the 1806Arc de Triomphe in ParisFrance, completed in 1836.

Passageway on Capitoline Hill

Musei Capitolini

Crest on wall of Musei Capitolini

Steps to Musei Capitolini

Fountain between River Gods on Capitoline Hill

Arch of Titus, Roman Forum

Arch of Titus, Forum Site. The inscriptions in the frieze means: 'The Roman Senate and People to Deified Titus, Vespasian Augustus, son of Deified Vespasian' were originally in bronze. The reliefs were also colored and the arch was topped by a bronze quadriga.

Door of Il Gesu. Headquarters of the Jesuit Order

Fountain in the Piazza della Rotonda in front of the Pantheon

Il Gesu
This huge, very Baroque church is the headquarters of the Jesuit order. The tomb of St. Ignatius, the order's founder, is topped by the largest piece of lapis lazuli in existence

Face of Emperor Constantine on gate-pier on Via die Fori Imperiali 

Nun in Trastevere District

Doorway in Trastevere District, Roma

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