Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mediterranean Cruise - Vatican City - St. Peter's Basilica

After touring some ancient Roman sites, and stopping by the Trevi, we hope to be able to spend a few hours at St. Peter's Basilica.  Not nearly enough time to really see all the treasures.  The interior is huge - it can house 60,000 people.

Built between 1506 and 1626, the basilica is a mix of Baroque and Renaissance styles.  Michaelangelo designed the dome.  St. Peter is said to be buried here, along with hundreds of other Saints.

Some other  interesting facts about St. Peter's Basilica from Mental Floss:

There’s a bronze statue of St. Peter thought to have been made by Arnolfo di Cambio in the 13th century, ...  it’s tradition for people to kiss or rub his foot when they pass by. You can tell just how many people have done it by the fact that his right toes have worn into a completely smooth surface, whereas his left toes are still individual digits.

Michelangelo’s Pietà is located at St. Peter’s and has been the source of much abuse over the years. First of all, four of her fingers broke off sometime in the 1700s as the statue was moved throughout the Basilica. They were repaired in 1736. But the worst incident was in 1972 when a geologist named Laszlo Toth ran into the Basilica and attacked the nearly 500-year-old statue with a geologist’s hammer. Yelling “I am Jesus Christ,” he took Mary’s arm completely off from the elbow down, chipped a chunk out of her nose and damaged one of her eyelids. Since its restoration from the attack, the Pietà has been housed in a case of bulletproof acrylic glass. You can still see where she was damaged if you look closely. The Pietà is also the only work Michelangelo ever signed – the story is that he heard someone talking about this great statue that Cristoforo Solari had created. It was Michelangelo’s statue, of course, and in a fit of pride, he went and added his signature to Mary’s sash. He later regretted it and said he would never sign anything ever again.

Bernini finished the 96-foot-tall baldacchino (the canopy-like thing over the altar) in 1633 and it’s the epitome of opulence, which it was heavily criticized for at the time. It’s said that the bronze that makes up the baldacchino was taken from the roof of the Pantheon, which is another thing Italians weren’t too thrilled about.

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