Being one of the biggest repositories of Renaissance art, it is no surprise that the St. Peter;s Basilica statues are some of the world's most famous ones. The immense area of St. Peter's Basilica is packed with intricately designed sculptures and monuments. Some of the greatest painters of the 15th and 16th centuries contributed to the Basilica's current status as an aesthetic sanctuary. Even if you haven't visited the Church, you've undoubtedly heard of its magnificent paintings.
The Vatican City is notable for the various St. Peter's Basilica monuments it houses , the most well-known of which are St. Peter's Statue, the Monument of Alexander VII, the Statue of St. Longinus, and Pieta, to mention a few. Most of its figures pay tribute to the Saints of the yesteryears, and are heavy with allegorical allusions to the Bible. The pricelessness of the St. Peter’s Basilica statues become evident when one names the artists behind their creations- Bernini, Michelangelo and Bracci are only some of the sculptors having contributed to the construction of the statues here.
The Pieta, designed by the Italian maestro Michelangelo, is one of the most famous St. Peter's Basilica monuments. The Carrara marble edifice depicts Jesus after his crucifixion, on Mother Mary's lap. It is about 6 feet tall and emanates a colossal air that captures the holiness of the occasion, leaving observers speechless. The Pieta, which roughly translates to "Pity," is Michelangelo's sole signature sculpture from the late 15th century. Look for this stunning statue in the first chapel on the right as you approach St. Peter's Basilica.
One of the most iconic St. Peter's Basilica statues, the Bronze St. Peter was supposed to originate from the 5th century AD. The monument is currently attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio, a prominent Tuscan artist who completed it around the end of the 1200s, after much discussion. The Apostles' Prince is represented in bronze, sitting on a marble chair. In his left hand, he holds the keys to Heaven, and in his right, he bestows a benediction. When pilgrims visit the church, they usually stroke or kiss Saint Peter's feet, especially the right one, and beg for a blessing. This ritual is so old that millions must have stroked the statue throughout the decades, wearing out the right foot.
Bernini's final major work was the Monument to Pope Alexander VII, which he created when he was 80 years old. It is regarded as one of the most outstanding works in the history of St. Peter's Basilica statues. The Pope prays on his knees, flanked by four female statues, each symbolizing one of the Pope's favorite virtues: charity, prudence, justice, and truth. The last one is notable because it has an intriguing political message from the 1600s: 'The truth is walking upon a world with readily identified countries.' The most stunning part of the monument is the winged skeleton that emerges from under a massive marble curtain, with the skeleton representing Death herself, holding a big hourglass.
Pope Innocent XII, like his idol Innocent XI, was a reformer. Among many notable projects, he strived to provide legal and economic fairness for all, created a hospital, and erected a palace for crippled people. Filippo Della Valle's Monument to Innocent XII is a straightforward work. At the top is a vase with a statue of the Pope, figures of Charity and Justice, and two angels. Due to limited space, they are positioned higher. As a result, a monument-like impression is unavoidable. The Pope is represented reclining in a tranquil but uncommunicative position, with the "Triregno" on his head and his right hand in the act of blessing.
The monument to Pope Pius VIII is actually a collection of four statuettes; A figure of Christ seated, as well as St. Peter and Paul statues, surround the Pope as he kneels, with parables portraying Prudence and Justice. Pope Pius VIII was imprisoned during Napoleon's rule in Italy in 1808 for refusing to accept Napoleon's pledge of loyalty. He signed and approved the Council of Baltimore decrees which comprised the first official assembly of the United States' bishops. A little entrance beneath the statue leads to the Sacristy and Treasury Museum. A list of all the Popes buried in St. Peter's Basilica may be found in the hallway leading to the museum.
Pope Benedict XIV is seen ascending from his seat to bless everyone. Two allegorical sculptures of Sacred Wisdom to the left and Disinterestedness to the right stand underneath him. Gaspare Sibilla carved both of them. A golden sun covers the breast of the first figure, who carries a book in her right hand. The second is flanked by a sturdy tiny angel holding a basket full of diamonds and money. Bracci designed this sculpture using 17th-century classical motifs, employing multi-colored designs with pyramid-shaped groupings.
Bernini's Monument to Pope Urban VIII has a pyramidal layout comparable to Pope Paul III's tomb, although it is more symmetrical. A bronze figure of the Pope bestowing graces on everybody is set on white marble. The many figures on the right and left each have their own significance. The one on the left, which is a kid, represents Charity, while the one on the right, which carries a sword and other weapons, represents Justice. Bernini utilized a skeleton to represent death for the first time. On this monument, Bernini incorporated small images of Barberini's Bees, which can also be found throughout the Basilica.
Aside from the numerous Papal monuments, St. Peter's Basilica monuments also include the figures of the numerous founder Saints. These monuments, which can be seen throughout the Basilica, pay tribute to prominent personalities in the Church's history. St. Peter of Alcantara, St. John of God, St. William, St. Dominic, St. Paul of the Cross, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Teresa of Jesus, and St. John Eudes are among these significant Saints.
One cannot forget the 13 sculptures on the facade when discussing St. Peter’s Basilica statues. A variety of architects worked on these monuments between 1612 and 1614. Some of the Facade statues that you must see on your visit to the Basilica include St. Matthew by Bernardino Cennini, St. Thomas by Simeon Drouin, St. James the Great by Egidio Moretti, St. John the Baptist by Simeon Drouin, Christ the Redeemer by Cristoforo Stati, St. Andrew by Carlo Fancelli, St. John the Evangelist by Antonio Vals, and St. James the Great by Giuse
Pietà: The Pietà, located in the first chapel to the right of the entry, is Michelangelo's most moving masterpiece, depicting the Virgin Mary bearing the corpse of the slain Jesus in her lap with amazing poise and care. Cardinal Jean Biléres de Lagraulas commissioned the piece for his tomb in 1498.
St. Peter: Perhaps the most popular of all St. Peter’s Basilica monuments, The bronze statue depicts the Prince of the Apostles, who is sitting on a marble chair. He holds the keys to Heaven in his left hand while blessed with his right. Pilgrims visiting the church are expected to touch or kiss Saint Peter's feet, preferably the right one, and beg for a blessing.
Monument to Alexander VII:A rather unique monument may be seen just a few steps to the left of the Canopy: the memorial to Alexander VII. This monument, designed by the 80-year-old Bernini, is considered his final major masterpiece. The monument depicts the pope kneeling in prayer, flanked by four sculptures of ladies, each representing one of the pope's favorite virtues: charity, prudence, justice, and truth.
The St. Peter’s Basilica statues date back to the 15th and the 16th centuries.
There are nearly 80 St. Peter’s Basilica statues in total, excluding those in St. Peter’s Square.
According to popular belief, the statue of St. Peter dates back to the 5th century. However, some believe that the statue was in fact built in the 1200s by a Tuscan artist.
Yes, photography is permitted inside the Basilica.
Bernini designed the Monument to Alexander VII.
There are 13 statues seated on the facade of the Basilica.
The statues on St. Peter’s Square were designed by Lorenzo Morelli.