Built by the decree of Constantine, rebuilt by some of the most distinguished architects in Renaissance Italy, emulated by Hitler’s architect in his vision for Germania, immortalized on film by Fellini, and fictionalized by a modern American bestseller, St. Peter’s is the most easily recognizable church in the world. This book is a cultural history of one of the most significant structures in the West. It bears the imprint of Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, Bernini, and Canova. For Grand Tourists of the eighteenth century, St. Peter’s exemplified the sublime. It continues to fascinate visitors today and appears globally as a familiar symbol of the papacy and of the Catholic Church itself.
The church was first built in the fourth century on what is thought to be the tomb of Peter—the rock upon which Christ decreed his church shall be built. After twelve hundred years, the church was largely demolished and rebuilt in the sixteenth century when it came to acquire its present-day form. St. Peter’s awes the visitor by its gigantic proportions, creating a city within itself. It is the mother church, the womb from which churches around the world have taken inspiration. This book covers the social, political, and architectural history of the church from the fourth century to the present. From the threshold, to the subterranean Roman necropolis, to the dizzying heights of the dome, this book provides rare perspectives and contexts for understanding the shape and significance of the most illustrious church in the world.
A finely produced and stylishly written study of ‘the greatest church in the world.’ Miller’s response to the basilica’s unparalleled architectural opulence is poised between wonder and wry irreverence at the counter Reformation intensity of it all.
The most enjoyable book [of the year] was St. Peter’s by Keith Miller, a witty and entertaining account of the most famous church in the world, still standing firm against the tides of tourism that swirl around it. As Miller makes clear, St. Peter’s has always been far more than a church.
[A] stimulating perambulation around this vast expanse of sacred space in the company of a sophisticated guide… Keith Miller’s St. Peter’s joins other outstanding titles in [the] Wonders of the World series, fast becoming something of a wonder itself, with its elegant design, its scholarly enthusiasm, and its respect for the general reader. Like the best guides, it makes one long to visit the place in question, armed with book in hand.
This scholarly and fascinating book unravels the complex story of the most famous church in the world.
- 256 pages
- 4-1/2 x 7-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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