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11 / The Urban Experience

St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square
St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square
Artist / Origin Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475–1564), Carlo Moderno (Italian, 1556–1629), Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Italian, 1598–1680), et al.
Region: Europe
Date ca. 1506–1667
Material Travertine marble
Location Vatican City, Rome, Italy
Credit Courtesy of Alinari Archives/CORBIS

expert perspective

Stephen J. CampbellProfessor of the History of Art, Johns Hopkins University

St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square

» Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475–1564), Carlo Moderno (Italian, 1556–1629), Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Italian, 1598–1680), et al.

expert perspective

Stephen J. Campbell Stephen J. Campbell Professor of the History of Art, Johns Hopkins University

In 1527, we have quarrels with the pope getting mixed up in the sort of theater of European politics, disputes between the emperor and the king of France. The pope backing one side, now the other. Finally, the emperor sends his troops against the city of Rome and the unimaginable happens. The summer of 1527, imperial forces take Rome and massacre a large part of its population, destroy large numbers of its churches, and desecrate its relics. The pope is submitted to all manner of indignities, but finally makes his peace with the emperor. And this is Pope Clement VII. Under his successors, especially Paul III, a great era of reconstruction begins in Rome. Paul III has got Michelangelo at his disposal. Michelangelo ends up rebuilding St. Peter’s pretty much, if you look at it from the east end, in the form we see it in today. And this is a project which Nicholas V had thought about in the middle of the fifteenth century. It’s finally finished in the 1600s. Michelangelo spends the remaining decades of his career as an artist—he dies in 1564—working on St. Peter’s.” 

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