St. Longinus, St. Peter's


At the crossing--at the foot of the baldacchino

Bernini was in charge of the decoration for the four huge piers which support Michelangelo's dome. Each of the piers has a tall niche with a relevant statue and a smaller niche above with a relief and relics relating to the figures below. The view here is of one of the enormous piers with a statue of St. Helena with the True Cross, carved by Andrea Bolgi, an assistant of Bernini. While the entire design was Bernini's, he is only credited with the statue of St. Longinus below. Above that niche is a portion of the spear of Longinus, one of the treasured relics of St. Peter's.

Theatricality, read easily from a distance

Like many of Bernini's sculptures, the most dramatic moment is emphasized--the moment when Longinus, the soldier who pierced Christ's side, looks up at him on the cross, recognizing He is the son of God. The drama is emphasized by the billowing drapery, which actually conceals his military armor, although his helmet is at his feet. The gesture, of course, reads well across the great space of the crossing.
This large statue (about 15 feet) is actually made of several separate pieces of marble. Like Bernini's earlier David, who seems to occupy space beyond the actual form of the sculpture, Bernini's soldier saint dynamically occupies extended space. The outstretched arms were unprecedented in sculpture--and of course difficult if using only one marble block.

Another sculpture in a niche in a crossing pier: St. Veronica by Francesco Mochi

While this work has some of Bernini's drama, the tiny linear folds read less successfully from a distance.

See also Bernini's other works in St Peter's: the Cathedra Petri, the baldacchino, the tomb of Alexander VII.

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© 2006 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.