The digitisation of the Vatican manuscripts is a very good enterprise, but undertaken in a less than entirely satisfactory way. The manuscripts are uploaded – but there is no indication of contents beyond the shelfmark. Thankfully, and in the spirit of crowd-sourcing, J.-B.Piggin has been making notes on them as they appear, and publishing lists at macrotypography blog. In doing so, he is discovering treasures!
In his latest post, Memories of Old St Peter’s, he draws attention to This is a handwritten account of various monuments in the 4th century basilica of Old St Peter’s, before its demolition in the 16th century and replacement with the church we know today. The book was written by the Vatican archivist, Giacomo Grimaldi, and is also illustrated with drawings! (I do wish it could be downloaded as a PDF!!)
Ottavio Bucarelli tells me that there is an edition with notes of the work: G.Grimaldi, Descrizione della basilica antica di S. Pietro in Vaticano, a cura di R. Niggl, BAV, 1972. But of course this is offline and inaccessible. So the original is what we have to work with.
On f.152v-153r is an opening with a picture of the front aspect of the old basilica. These motley buildings led into the atrium in front of the church. Click on it to enlarge:
There are a number of drawings. Unfortunately the photographers didn’t try to mask the ink showing through from the other side. This is usually done by inserting a sheet of black paper behind the page. So it can make it hard to read.
Much of the material is the opening of the graves of various popes, including Leo I, and a drawing of his shrouded body in his grave (!)
Here is another double-page opening, f.104v-105r, of the interior of the basilica, showing where various monuments were:
There are also colour pictures of the decoration, much of it under Pope Formosus.
On fol. 133v-134r is a picture of the atrium, inside the front buildings, with the nave in front of us:
This is followed by an account of the atrium or “paradise”.
It’s delightful to think that this material is online! More!