Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Original, Constantinian Basilica of St. Peter's in Rome

As most of you will know, the Basilica of St. Peter's we have become so accustomed to seeing in Rome is not the original structure which stood on that spot. The original Constantinian basilica, dating from around the 4th century or so, was a Romanesque structure that stood on the spot above St. Peter's tomb. The St. Peter's we now know (and indeed, love) had construction begin in the year 1506, being completed finally in 1626.

Still, there is always something of sorrow -- for myself at least -- to think about the ancient basilica that we have lost. It was in the course of research for an NLM piece I am presently working on related to architecture that I came across these images again and determined to put them together here for a quick post that will show the ancient basilica.

Here, first is the exterior of the original basilica as it stood around 1450:

Here is a simple drawing which shows the original Romanesque basilica while the new basilica we now know and recognize was being constructed behind it:

Finally, here is the interior of the original basilica, as captured by Raphael. Do take note of the apse mosaic, the spiral pillars, the ciborium magnum and so forth.

You will notice other interesting features, such as the vigil lamps and candles, if you look closely.

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