Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Old St. Peter's Basilica

One of the first historical places that I learned about as I walked the exhibit of Vatican Splendors was Old St. Peter's Basilica, which once stood where the Basilica of St. Peter stands today in Rome. The Old St. Peter's Basilica stood there from the 4th through the 16th centuries.  The construction of the Basilica began during the reign of the Roman emporer Constantine I between 326 and 333, and took about thirty years to complete.  Papal coronations began to be held at the Basilica.  By the 15th century the church was falling to ruin, and as a result there was reconstruction which improved both the apse and partially added a multi-story benediction loggia.  Pope Julius II's intention was to preserve the old building but ended up deciding to tear it down and building a new structure.  The original altar itself was preserved in the new structure.

Here is a fresco showing the interior of the basilica:

The Donation of Constantine (c. 1520) from Raphael's workshop shows how the interior of Old St. Peter's looked. In the center background the painting shows the original altar arrangement, with four Solomonic columns in front of the altar. 

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