St Peter’s Baldacchino: The Iconic Bernini Masterpiece!

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Discover St. Peter’s Basilica’s most unique Baldacchino sculpture by Bernini, towering over the Altar at the center of the Church.

It is one of the most famous sculptures covered in religious carvings, standing at a height of 66 feet!

Visitors planning to see the Baldacchino must know everything about its history, construction techniques, and architecture for an informative experience.

In this article, we’ll discover everything you need to know about the Baldacchino decorating the Nave of St Peter’s Basilica!

Where does Bernini’s Baldacchino stand?

You will see the Baldacchino standing at the center of the Basilica over the famous Papal Altar.

It is a giant canopy-like structure that can even be spotted from the main entrance of the Basilica!

The Baldacchino stands between the four pillars of the Nave of the Basilica. 

You can see this beautiful artwork for free! 

The Architecture of the Baldacchino in St Peter’s Basilica

Bernini used a unique combination of architecture and sculpture in his Baldacchino, which led to the widespread use of this art form all over the world!

The bronze canopy has four spiral columns standing over a high marble plinth, at the top of which is a massive cornice.

Researchers believe that the bronze for this massive piece came from the ceiling of the Roman Pantheon, but some criticize this, saying it came from Venice. 

The base is decorated with carved designs and excellent gilded bronze angel sculptures!

Let’s look at some of these elements in detail: 

The Coat of Arms

Eight masterfully designed Coat of Arms from the Barberini family decorated the pedestal of the Baldacchino.

According to popular interpretations, the coat of arms is considered to show a woman during childbirth.

Researchers believe that this symbolizes the birth of the Church as an organization!

Some also believe that Bernini added this pattern to pay reverence to Pope Urban VIII’s niece’s difficult childbirth.

The Spiral Columns

The most stunning and unique part of the Baldacchino is the massive spiral columns, standing at a height of 29 meters!

It has a beautiful life-like olive branch carved all over the columns, with cherubs in the middle of the design.

The columns hold up the cornice, which is crafted in a way that looks just like cloth with its flowing movements and hanging tassels!

The Barberini Family Bees

Since Pope Urban VIII hired Bernini, he included many Heraldic bees in the design, which is a design belonging to the Coat of Arms of the family. 

The Coat of Arms design of the family included the Heraldic Bees, the Keys of Heaven, and the Papal Tiara. 

Most of the elements in the Baldacchino are made to symbolize his family, and you can even see some of their personal stories inscribed.

St Peter’s Keys

You can see a stunning depiction of St. Peter’s Keys at the top of the Baldacchino in the hands of the angels.

It is not only a symbol of Bernini’s family’s Coat of Arms but also pays reverence to St. Peter, who was gifted the keys.

It also shows the main values of the Church, as Jesus gave the human St. Peter, who was the Pope, the keys to Heaven. 

The keys also appear on the Coat of Arms of the Vatican and are an important symbol of Christianity. 

The Papal Tiara

Like the keys, the Papal Tiara has a deep religious significance as it is worn only by the Pope.

It shows the Pope’s power over the Church, as he is believed to be the man in contact with God.

You will spot the Tiara next to a gilded cross on the Baldacchino, held in the hands of a cherub. 

The Four Angels 

At the top of each massive spiral column stands an Angel statue supporting the cornice and the columns. 

They blend in with the other cherubs at the top, which hold the keys and Papal Tiara.

At the top, between the four Angels, stands a massive gilded cross on a round earth-like structure, showing the belief that Christianity will redeem the Earth from its sins. 

The Baldacchino’s History & Bernini’s Construction Process 

Pope Urban VIII hired Gian Lorenzo Bernini to construct the beautiful Baldacchino canopy between 1624 and 1635.

It was his first work for St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, and he used his Baroque architecture style combined with modern elements to craft this masterpiece.

The Baldacchino was not designed by Bernini alone, but he built the structure with his father Pietro, brother Luigi, and other famous Italian artisans.

A famous Italian architect, Francesco Borromini, also worked on the Baroque style Baldacchino with Bernini before their rivalry began. 

They took over nine years to craft this structure, using bronze to create a flowing cloth illusion, a standard look for canopies then.

Of all the bronze used to construct this piece, 6200 kgs were taken from the Roman Pantheon!

The Baldacchino’s columns were a replica of the Old St. Peter’s Basilica’s marble columns, which stood around St. Peter’s tomb. 

The sculpture now stands over St. Peter’s Tomb and the Papal Altar, attracting almost ten million visitors annually for its unique beauty!

FAQs on St Peter’s Baldacchino

1. What is the significance of the Baldacchino in New St Peter’s?

2. Which Pope commissioned Bernini to create St Peter’s Baldacchino?

3. From where did the architects get the bronze for the Baldacchino?

4. Where is the Baldacchino now?

5. What does the Coat of Arms look like on Bernini’s Baldacchino at St Peter’s Basilica?

6. Do I need a ticket to see the Baldacchino in the Vatican?

7. How long did Bernini take to construct the Baldacchino?

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Featured Image: Wikimedia.org

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