St Peter's Baldachin Tours

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St Peter's Baldachin
In the early years of his pontificate, Pope Urban VIII commissioned what is now called St Peter’s Baldachin (Baldacchino di San Pietro) over the saint’s grave. The project was designed by Bernini and turned out to be so enormous that the Pantheon’s beams had to be melted down to provide the massive amount of bronze needed. The Romans weren’t too happy with the damage done to their beloved Pantheon, and the project was thus on the receiving end of all sorts of mockery. A popular pun was an allusion to the Pope’s family name Barberini: "Quod non fecerunt Barberi, fecerunt Barberini"—a saying that roughly translates to "what even the barbarians didn’t dare to do, the Barberini did."

Located under the dome of Michelangelo where the nave and transept meet, the canopy is as high as a nine-story building. It is directly over the altar, which in turn lies over the supposed grave of St Peter, and is held up by four corkscrew columns that form a helix—an idea conjured up by then-24-year-old master sculptor Bernini when he saw the twisted columns of the old St Peter’s Basilica. The work of art turned out to be so expensive that the project devoured 10 percent of the Papacy’s annual revenue at the time. But the risk paid off. On the day the baldachin was unveiled, it proved to be a spectacular success, even with the previously disdainful Romans.

Practical Info

St Peter’s Basilica, where St Peter's Baldachin is located, opens every day from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. in winter and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. from April to September. To get to the basilica, take the Metro line A to the Ottaviano San Pietro stop and follow the Via Ottaviano Street.
Address: Piazza San Pietro, Vatican City, Rome, Italy
Hours: April-September 7am-7pm; October-March 7am-6pm
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