An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XVI

Bronze Sculpture of Saint Peter in the Basilica of Saint Peter, Vatican City (LEO Design)

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish. 

Not far from the tomb of Saint Peter—above which the Papal Altar, Bernini's baldacchino and Michelangelo's dome rise—sits this bronze sculpture of the first pope, Saint Peter, clutching the keys to the kingdom close to his breast and raising his right hand in blessing. For centuries, the faithful have venerated the sculpture; in the Middle Ages, pilgrims (on their months-long walk to Rome) would petition the saint to help them make it home from their journey. Christians have traditionally kissed or touched the sculpture's extended right foot—which is now worn-down to a nub.

For years, it was believed that the sculpture was ancient—from the early centuries of the Christian Church. Peter's old-fashioned "snail-like" curls on his head and in his beard (plus legends of a Fourth Century provenance) encouraged this misconception. Today, most scholars attribute the work to the Tuscan sculptor Arnolfo di Cambio (1245-1302) who did some work in the "archaic" style. Arnolfo di Cambio enjoyed important commissions during the late Middle Ages—in Florence, Siena, Orvieto and Rome.

We'll continue our summer holiday tomorrow. 


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