The Altar of the Chair of St. Peter, is a huge sculpture created by Bernini in the year 1666, and is currently placed above the altar in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Italy. This piece was commissioned by Pope Alexander VI, who wanted a lavish sculpture to glorify the very important religious relic of the chair of Saint Peter. He was the founder of the Christian Church and the chair is believed to be the one that he sat on while giving his sermons. This is an ancient wooden piece of furniture that was first covered in oak and then later supported by iron bands that were used to carry it during celebrations.
Bernini’s sculpture was made into two parts to completely encase the relic in a magnificently detailed bas-relief sculpture made out of heavily gilded bronze. Surrounding the chair are four huge bronze statues standing five meters or nearly sixteen feet tall that represents four important figures in the Catholic Church. The outer statues on the left and right of the artwork, are Saint Ambrose and Saint Augustine. These men are both Doctors of Latin Church, or religious writers who have heavily influenced the Church with their writing and teaching. The other two inner sculptures are St. Athanasius and St. John Chrysostom, both Doctors of the Greek Church. Placed above the artwork are two cherubs holding the symbols of the Pope’s authority, the tiara and the keys. Finally, topping the piece are a host of angels surrounding a beautiful multicolored glass window, that is divided into twelve sections representing the Twelve Apostles. In the middle of the glass is a white dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit.
Next, this artwork is one of Bernini’s masterpieces created for the Church and is filled with symbols of Baroque artwork the theatricality of the piece that screams look at me with its highly polished golden bronze, the billowing clouds, and the golden rays highlighting the chair. Finally, my opinion of the work is that is a very beautiful piece showcasing the power of the Roman Catholic Church, the highly significant treatment of the relic of Saint Peter, and Bernini’s talent in combining so many varied materials to create such a beautiful but gaudy piece.
“Cathedra Petri,” St. Peter’s Basilica.org. St. Peter’s Basilica, n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2013.
“Conversion Table (meter to feet),” Conversion Table. Conversion Table, n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2013.
Knight, Kevin. “Doctors of the Church.” New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia. Catholic Encyclopedia, n.d. Web. 27 Dec. 2013.