“San Pietro in Montorio” by Bramante

“San Pietro in Montorio” by Bramante
“San Pietro in Montorio” by Bramante

Donato Bramante was an Italian architect and painter, from Urbino specifically, who was commissioned to build a small temple in Rome between 1499 and 1502, which was a kind of "manifesto" of the new stage of the Renaissance that meant the sixteenth century or Quinquecento, which ultimately meant the "transfer" of Renaissance splendor from Florence to Rome. Bramante had been educated at the court of the Duke of Urbino, who acted as a true patron. When he moved to Rome, he soaked up the monumentality of Roman art, which is largely present in the city. He conceives architecture always as order, linked to proportion and the sensation of mass, with which it is always austere, dispensing with any ornamentation that is not architectural, liking to value the light contrasts produced by alternating full-empty.

San Pietro in Montorio

The work responds to a commission from the Spanish Catholic Monarchs, Isabel and Fernando, who want to build a monument of gratitude after the religious unification of the peninsula once the last Muslim taifa of Granada had been conquered and the expulsion of the Jews. It was built in the place where tradition placed the martyrdom of Saint Peter, his crucifixion and his subsequent beheading. With this, it evokes in the first place the Paleo-Christian martyrs, since it architecturally “envelops” the hole in the rock in which the cross apparently stood.

Aboutunderground chamber, Bramante will raise a building made of stone consisting of a cylinder crowned with a dome, which will be externally surrounded by a circular colonnade of the Tuscan order. On the colonnade a tiny balustrade surrounds the upper body. Thus we see that the building is of clear classical inspiration, since the exterior portico refers us to the Greek tholos, as well as the stepped base or the entablature with a frieze of triglyphs and metopes, in which, by the way, the scenes allude to the martyrdom of the saint, and the cylindrical structure topped with a dome makes it the Pantheon of Rome, as well as the use of the Tuscan order, the simplicity, the robustness, the sobriety, the monumentality and the delimitation of the unique façade (despite the stepped base, only it is accessed through a place, thus enhancing the idea of ​​the main façade) show the Roman influence in this architecture that constitutes a prototype of a building that will have a great prestige later. It is the ideal Platonic temple, dreamed of by the Florentine neo-Platonic Christian philosophers of the Medici court, just as Perugino imagined it in his paintings or Raphael painted it in his work “The Betrothal of the Virgin”.

The ornamental elements are merely architectural (let us think that the sculptures of the metopes are totally linked to the idiosyncrasy of the order), highlighting in the upper part of the cylinder the alternation of the niches with the wall and their decoration, since we can see some topped with scallop shells (another element with classical roots) withothers without anything, with a rectangular profile.

Despite the classical inspiration, there is no doubt about the uniqueness of the building, since it is not a mere copy of any specific example, but an original creation although taking disparate elements from the Hellenic tradition and the Latin.

Popular topic