[ARC 1313] Architecture Culture & History 1
NAME OF BUILDING: St. Peter Basilica
LECTURER: Mr. Sarly Adre Sarkum
STUDENTS’ NAME STUDENT ID
Charlene Chan Huishan 0308518
Helsa Josephine 0305813
Lim Shu Yin 0307795
Nicole Lim Xu Teng 0307814
WORD COUNT: __________________________
Baroque Period is an era in the history of the Western arts that roughly coinciding in the 17th
century. It occurred after the Renaissance Period. In the 1600’s, Renaissance architects started
to experiment with bold curves, unsymmetrical building lines and ornate decorations instead of
symmetrical lines. One of the most famous building from Baroque Period is St. Peter’s Basilica,
the biggest; with a total area of 44000 square meter, with 219 meter of the basilica itself. (Dupre’,
J., 2001, p.65) The facade is about the size of a soccer field with a width of 114 meters and a
height of 46 meters, being one of the most beautiful churches ever built. Many mistakenly
categorize this building as Renaissance Architecture. This is due to the duration of the
construction of the building and the renaissance architects involved. Nevertheless, St. Peter’s
Basilica is renowned as a Baroque style building.
St. Peter’s Basilica is located in Vatican City, Italy. It is also known as the second St.
Peter’s Basilica as it was built replacing the old building that was constructed during the Roman
Empire under Emperor Constantinople. From historical evidences, it is believed that the location
of Saint Peter’s tomb, one of Jesus’ twelve apostles, is located directly below the altar of the
Basilica. This is one of the reasons that make this building special, thus it is visited by millions of
people every year. The construction of St. Peter’s Basilica began in the 1500’s. On 18th April
1506, Julius II laid the first stone of the new Basilica. The construction took about 120 years and
was completed on 18th November 1626.
St. Peter's Basilica is famous as a place of pilgrimage and for its liturgical functions. It
was built as a funerary church, to house the tomb of Saint Peter and the tombs of Christians
who wished to be buried near him. Most functions were commemorative rites for those who
were buried there, ranging from private family meals to huge gatherings.
There were 4 main architects that contributed to the St. Peter’s Basilica were Donato
Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. In fact, there are more than
4 architects who contributed in this project throughout the timespan of its construction. Each of
them contributed differently for redesigning and rebuilding this masterpiece. Michelangelo for
example, started working on this building at the age 71, committed a lot to this building, such as
calculating and designing the dome of the Basilica. One interesting fact is that, Michelangelo
passed away before the dome was completed, but he left behind the design and a model of the
dome as reference for his successors.
The table below is the list of various architects and their contribution to the St. Peter’s Basilica.
Contribution to St. Peter’s Basilica
The first architect that work on St. Peter’s Basilica. He won the competition
by Julius II who command to rebuild the new Basilica
Bramante's student; He work on the Pauline Chapel, which is part of St.
Fra Giocondo He work on how to strengthen the foundation of the building
Raphael Work with Giocondo to redesign the building, but at the end their plan was
Michelangelo One of the architects that is very famous for his contribution to the building.
He design the dome, crossing, and exterior but not the nave and facade.
Carlo Maderno He continued Michelangelo's work by extending his plan adding a nave and
designed the grand facade
He work on the famous piazza in front of the Cathedral. Besides that he
worked on the Cathedra Petri, and the Baldacchino
The interior of Baroque style
architecture, which is filled with
unsymmetrical designs and statue of
The interior of Renaissance style
architecture, which portrays a clean
and simple design and even
St. Peter’s Basilica floor plan is cruciform in shape, with an elongated shape of the Latin cross.
It has a parabolic dome with a double column lantern. Besides that, The Basilica has centralized
organizations and it has the characteristic of interlocking space.
The main construction materials are marble and concrete. The other materials include
travertine stone, limestone, bricks, mortar, mosaic, timber, bronze roof tiles and leaden roofing.
The column shafts in the nave colonnades are made of an exotic variation of masonry such as
granite and marble imported from foreign lands. The 14,000 ton dome is mostly made of
masonry, held together by curved beams. Iron bands were used to encircle the base of the
dome, giving tension and support. The travertine stone of the dome is held together using 7
internal iron rings, while iron chains reinforced the stability of the cupola. The insertion of iron
rings and chains are the main feature to keep the basilica stable and standing thus far. Much of
the interior is made of bronze and gilt.
There are countless reasons why this building is special. Even though it is neither the
mother church of the Roman Catholic Church or the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, St.
Peter's basilica is still regarded as one of the holiest Catholic sites. It has been described as
"holding a unique position in the Christian world" and as "the greatest of all churches of
Christendom". In regards to Christianity, this was where Emperor Nero began the great
persecution of Christians in Rome. After 200 years of persecution, Christians gained their
freedom by Emperor Constantinople. It was in St. Peter's Basilica where they gathered and
have their service. The location of Vatican Hill is also highly symbolic, reason being that this
was the site where Saint Peter died a martyr and where he was buried in 64 AD. St. Peter is
Diagram is showing floor plan
with cruciform shape, interlocking
spaces, and centralized
considered the first pope, so it made sense for the papacy to build the principal shrine of the
Catholic Church in the spot where St. Peter was buried.
St. Peter’s Basilica as a Baroque Building
The word Baroque is derived from ancient Portuguese “Barocco” which literally means
“misshapen pearl” also simply meaning something that is elaborate. Before Baroque, as
recalled in the introduction, Renaissance emphasize on symmetry, geometry, proportions and
regularity of components which has been used in the architecture of ancient Greece and
particularly Rome. It is changed in the Baroque Period where buildings were designed with bold
curving, unsymmetrical building, and ornate decoration. Other than that, Baroque architecture
still has more life to the building. Materials that are usually used for the interior in Baroque are
mostly marble, gilt, and bronze, which can be found a lot in the interior of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Numerous gilded puttos, also known as the little angels are used to decorate the interior of most
Baroque architecture. The ceilings and domes in baroque style often contained large frescos or
murals using what is known as "Trompe l'oeil" painting which is an art technique involving
extremely realistic imagery in order to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects appear
in three dimensions, instead of actually being a two-dimensional painting.
The construction of St. Peter’s basilica achieved a major milestone in the architecture field with
its gradual transition from Renaissance architecture to Baroque architecture. The unique
rhetorical and theatrical design of the basilica expressed the jubilance of the Catholic Church.
Throughout the time span of the construction of St. Peter’s basilica, numerous architects from
both the Renaissance and Baroque era had designed and modified the building time and time
until it was shaped into the impressive monument it is today. With its allusive depiction of the
Baroque era and its historical significance, St. Peter’s basilica definitely captures the essence
and representation of Baroque.
Numerous gilded puttos,
also known as the little
angels are used to
decorate the interior of
1. Judith Dupre, 2001. Churches. HarperCollins Publication, New York.
2. R.A. Scotti , 2007. Basilica : the splendor and the scandal : building St. Peter’s. Plume
Publications, United States of America.
3. George L. Hersey, 1927. Architecture and geometry in the age of the Baroque.
University Chicago Press, Springfield.
4. Alexander Markschies, 2003. Icons of Renaissance architecture. Prestel, New York.
5. Germain Bazin, 2001. Baroque and rococo. [translated from the French by Jonathan
Griffin] Thames and Hudson, United Kingdom.
6. Rolf Toman , 2002. Baroque and rococo. [text : Barbara Borngässer; photographs :
Achim Bednorz.] Feierabend, Germany.
7. Jan Gympel, 2002. The story of architecture : from antiquity to the present. Konemann,