Balconies in the Pillars of the Dome of St. Peter's Basilica Gian Lorenzo Bernini Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Balconies in the Pillars of the Dome of St. Peter's Basilica is a great baroque carved bronze canopy which is also known as the baldachin.

It is located over the altar of the St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City. The balconies are at the centre of the main crossing and directly under the dome of the St. Peter's Basilica. Designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, it was built to mark the monumental way, the area of St. Peter’s tomb underneath.

Under the canopy, there is a high altar of the Basilica. This artistic work was commissioned by the famous Pope Urban VIII in 1623 and completed in 1634. The Balconies acts as a visual focus within Basilica, they form a visual mediation between the human scale of the Christians officiating at the well-known religious ceremonies and the scale of the building at the papal altar under its canopy.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini used different techniques to create his sculptures. In this artistic work, he used both the work ethic and the lost wax method to achieve the shape, composition, dramatic intent, textures, naturalism and hallmarks. To achieve the beauty and the ornate effects of the balconies, he used a casting technique called the lost wax method.

This technique includes the creation of a bronze and wax model. In the design of the balconies or the baldachin, he used natural objects such as the leaves and the lizards to achieve an extremely life-like sculpture appearance. He applied molten bronze to the hollow, disintegrating the wax as it was leading to contemporaries to name his technique of casting the lost-lizard method.

Due to the religious influence and the fact that most of Bernini’s commissions were offered by religious figures, a large percentage of his artistic work including the Balconies in the pillars of the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica was religious by theme and style.

But, due to the Scipione Borghes's influence, Gian Lorenzo Bernini had a persistent interest in the mythological figures and objects. Also, due to the patronage that Bernini was driven by, he executed several portraits that were either sculpted or painted forms. The characteristics he adopted in this artwork include the dramatic intent, naturalism, movement, and texture.

Each of the balconies employed the same style and design, and they are currently located within the upper niche of every pier. The floor of the balconies is supported by three pairs of balustrades that extend slightly past the corners of the piers. There is an Urberini family coat in between the middle pair of the arms that is decorated with the papal tiara, bees, and the crossed keys.

Also, there are six gold panels along the railings that correspond to balustrades below. On the Helena piers and Veronica, both the first, middle and the last panels are well decorated with shells and other objects. They include a bronze door which leads to a room where relics were stored. It is decorated with the Barberini bees and vines. Just above the doors, there are angels and putti who carry the symbols of the saints or the relics.