If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:4:14

Video transcript

we're in st. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican in Rome and a mass just ended we could barely see the Cardinal well the scale of this space is difficult to comprehend but thanks to the ball takeno by Bernini we have a little bit of a bridge between the vastness of this space and the scale of the human body the Baldacchino is this 8 storey high canopy that marks the exact crossing of the church this is the point where the nave the long hallway in the center of the church intersects with a perpendicular hallway known as the transept and the Baldacchino therefore is set right below Michelangelo's dome it is a space that is so big that it's almost impossible to judge and the bald Aquino which is almost 100 feet tall does function as a kind of intermediary and it also marks the important side of the burial of Saint Peter in the crypt right below and it's one of the two primary altars in this church so this is the place the Pope might actually lead miss it's important to remember too that st. Peter was understood to be the first pope given that job by Christ himself by marking the site of the tomb of st. Peter this monument expresses the so legitimacy of the Catholic Church led by the Pope here in the Vatican and remember this is little more than a century after the challenge to the church by Martin Luther and the Protestants so this is very much the reassertion of the supremacy of the Pope during the Counter Reformation in a style that we call the Baroque but a little bit more on what a bald aquino is this is architecture and it's sculpture simultaneously but it references a much more modest canopy that might actually be made out of cloth so there is a long tradition of the ball takeno marking an important spot but not on the scale that we have here but the symbolism doesn't stop with the marking of its location the very columns are symbolic note that these are not do or ionic or Corinthian columns these are not coming out of the classical tradition instead these are spiral columns that referred to the columns of the old st. Peter's and to the columns from the Temple of Solomon so we're standing in the new city Peter's rebuilt in the early 16th century the old st. Peters dated back to the time of Constantine first Christian Roman Emperor at the top on the corners receive angels and the Bernini has created what looks like fabric hanging down between them and then above all of that is the cross and orb a symbol of the triumph of the church throughout the world the orb a symbol of power this is all about the triumph of the church especially in this context of the Counter Reformation but it's also about an individual it's about Pope Urban the 8th the Pope the commissioned this key came from one of the leading families of Rome the Barberini and their insignia is a B and so when we look up we see bees on the Baldacchino and so this is about the church but it's also about the individual contribution of this particular baroque Pope and as we look through the Baldacchino we look to another monument by Bernini and that's the chair st. Peter the volcano is huge and it required a lot of bronze and bronze is very expensive right bronze is mostly copper which is tremendously expensive mixed with a little bit of tin to make it stronger we think that much of the bronze for this project actually had been stripped from the portico of the Pantheon that ancient building in Rome the pantheon of course is a temple to all of the gods it is the epitome of the polytheism of the Ancients but here brought into a Catholic Church although of course we can see that in many places in Rome the way that ancient Roman monuments were reused by Christians for example while Michelangelo created the Church of Santa Maria de Anjali from ancient Roman Baths so I know much of the inspiration for the Baldacchino was to help humanize the vast scale of Saint Peter's Basilica but the vast of the Baldacchino itself is still overwhelming for me it's still really daunting