Drawings of Old St Peter’s in Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.A.64.ter

Another Vatican manuscript has come online, as I learn from @gundormr on Twitter here, and this one contains 16-17th century drawings of Old St Peter’s church in Rome. It has the rather awkward shelfmark of Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.A.64.ter, and may usually be found here, although I see tonight that the site is not working.

Here’s a small image in folio 10r, showing the courtyard outside the entrance, with annotations for the features.  A detailed list of contents is here.

On the right is the papal palace, in the middle is the fountain of the pine-cone, and ahead is the mosaic facade of the old church, behind a portico.

This is all well and good.  But the really spectacular part is if you download the image from folio 10r yourself.  The resulting .jpg file is huge – and this has an interesting effect, when you open it on your screen. You find yourself zooming in, effectively, on different parts of the courtyard.  Suddenly, we can see it!  It’s like being there:

We can see the entrance in the middle into the basilica.  That is not maximum resolution, by the way, either.

I can’t make out that much of the annotations, but it is simply wonderful to be able to do this.

Folio 12r is the inside of the basilica, and you can do exactly the same thing, and zoom in.

Well worth a look!


2 thoughts on “Drawings of Old St Peter’s in Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.A.64.ter

  1. Hi Roger, you’re right, this is a beautiful drawing.

    Googling for the first words of the note produces a couple of transcriptions and lots of interesting stuff:


    The last one has a translation which may not be available everywhere so I’m pasting it here:

    The exterior facade of the old basilica of San Pietro, which was adorned with mosaic by the great Pope Gregory IX, had these images: Our Saviour Jesus Christ in the throne of his majesty, blessing with his thumb and the ring conjoined; on his right, the Blessed Virgin Mary, on his left St Peter. At the feet of the Saviour the image of Gregory IX kneeling in his papal habit with chasuble and cloak, who, almost prostrate, offers a golden coin over a cushion at the feet of the Saviour. The four evangelists in the guise of a lion, an angel, an eagle and an ox holding the books of the evangelists. Beneath these figures have been portrayed standing images representing these same evangelists as men, that is on the right side of the Saviour. St Matthew with a book in which are the words: “Jesus took up Peter, James and John.” Next to Matthew, St Mark holding a book in which is the beginning of his gospel. On the other side, to the Saviour’s left, St John in old age with a book reciting the beginning of his gospel. Next to him, St Luke with the book of his gospel. Beneath these images are seen the 24 Elders offering crowns to the Saviour, one of whom was renewed by Eugenius IV, as his heraldic insignia shows. In the border dividing the upper images of the evangelists from the lower ones of the Elders, these lines are read in mosaic: AS THE BURNING SUN SHINES ABOVE EVERY STAR, AND JUST AS GOLD GLEAMS ABOVE OTHER METALS, AND DOCTRINE IS WARMED BY FAITH, JUST SO THIS HOUSE, BUILT UPON A SECURE ROCK, PREVAILS EVERYWHERE. Then in the background of the images of the Elders there is the city of Jerusalem on one side and Bethlehem on the other, with sheep emerging from the gates of those cities. Underneath the image of Gregory is read his name: GREGORIUS PAPA VIII. It is to be noted in this mosaic that Gregory IX offers gold at the feet of the Saviour, which is a sign of great submission. Thus does the emperor make an offering to the highest pope at the offertory, during the coronation; see the ancient Pontificale in the library of San Pietro no.10, fols. 51 and 52, in these words: depositing his crown and cloak, the Emperor approaches the highest Pope and offers as much gold as he shall wish at his feet.

Leave a Reply