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Cathedra Petri (St. Peter's Altar), St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

Cathedra Petri (St. Peter's Altar), St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

Amit Banerjee

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Cathedra Petri (St. Peter's Altar), St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

Cathedra Petri (St. Peter's Altar) and Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680) devoted his work to the precious relic, the so-called Cathedra Petri or 'throne of St. Peter' a chair which was often claimed to have been used by the apostle, but appears to date from the 12th century. As the chair itself was fast deteriorating and was no longer serviceable, Pope Alexander VII determined to enshrine it in suitable splendour as the object upon which the line of successors to Peter was based. Bernini created a large bronze throne in which it was housed, raised high on four looping supports held effortlessly by massive bronze statues of four Doctors of the Church, Saints Ambrose and Augustine representing the Latin Church and Athanasius and John Chrysostom, the Greek Church. The four figures are dynamic with sweeping robes and expressions of adoration and ecstasy. Behind and above the Cathedra, a blaze of light comes in through a window of yellow alabaster, illuminating, at its centre, the Dove of the Holy Spirit. The elderly painter, Andrea Sacchi, had urged Bernini to make the figures large, so that they would be seen well from the central portal of the nave. The chair was enshrined in its new home with great celebration of 16 January 1666.




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