Saint Peter's Basilica, facade. Pen on paper. The Constantinian Basilica. Pen on paper.
Saint Peter's Basilica
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Dedication: the Apostle Peter
Built: c.320ad
Major Restorations: 1547, 1629
Relics: body of Saint Peter, lance of Longinus, Veil of Veronica, Cross of St. Andrew
Orientation: 90° East (equinox)
The evolution of Saint Peter, and his basilica, is intimately connected to the evolution of the power of the bishops of Rome within catholicism. When Constantine built the first basilicas, the principle church and seat of the bishop of Rome was the basilica of the Holy Saviour (now San Giovanni in Laterano), and the local churches of the Roman Empire were practically equal under the emperor. Rome came to prominence through many internal struggles and schisms, and the roman Pope did not become the undisputed head of the church until medioeval times. The main justification for this prominence was the presence of Peter in Rome, from whom all Popes claimed authority. As the prominence of the Pope grew, so did the basilica.
The piazza in front of the basilica was designed by Bernini as a declaration of the church's embrace of the whole of creation. The shape of the piazza, with it's oval sphere, reproduces what was thought to be the shape of the Universe, surrounded by a multitude of saints above the cornice of the colonnade, stars shining from the outer edges of the celestial sphere. At the centre stands an egyptian obelisc as the earth, and two fountains stand for the Sun and the Moon in orbit around the earth.