The Splendor and the Scandal: Building St. Peter's
By R. A. Scotti
(Viking Adult, Hardcover, 9780670037766, 320pp.)
Publication Date: June 8, 2006
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Out of the clash of genius and the caprice of popes came the most glorious monument of the Renaissance
It was the splendor--and the scandal--of the age. In 1506, the ferociously ambitious Renaissance Pope Julius II tore down the most sacred shrine in Europe--the millenniumold St. Peter's Basilica built by the Emperor Constantine over the apostle's grave--to build a better basilica. Construction of the new St. Peter's spanned two centuries, embroiled twenty-seven popes, and consumed the genius of the greatest artists of the age--Michelangelo, Bramante, Raphael, and Bernini. As the basilica rose, modern Rome rose with it as glorious as the city of the Caesars. But the cost was unimaginable. The new basilica provoked the Protestant Reformation, dividing the Christian world for all time.
In this swift, colorful narrative, R. A. Scotti brings to life the artists and the popes, the politics and the passions behind this audacious enterprise. Gothic cathedrals reach up to heaven, but the basilica brings heaven to earth, and the new St. Peter's was the defining event of the high Renaissance.
In the tradition of Brunelleschi's Dome, Scotti turns sacred architecture into a spellbinding human epic of enormous daring, petty jealousy, and staggering genius.
1. The outrage sparked by the demolition of Constantine's basilica to make way for the new St. Peter's brings to mind modern battles between real estate developers and defenders of historic landmarks. And yet today, the "new" basilica is itself a historic treasure—one of the architectural marvels of the late Renaissance. To what degree do you believe a city's architectural legacy should be preserved? Where do we draw the line between preserving the past and embracing the future?