Basilica : The Splendour and the Scandal — Building St Peter’s
The Basilica of St. Peter’s has dominated the spiritual and physical landscape of the Catholic Church for centuries, an amalgam of the classical lines of the Renaissance and the florid dramatics of the Baroque, which can’t help but earn one’s admiration. Now, in R.A. Scotti’s vibrant account of this bastion, that admiration can be informed by the astonishing and often chaotic sequence of events that culminated in the raising of the basilica. From the moment when the 16th-century warrior pope, Julius II, razed the ancient shrine in order to create a monument, to Urban VIII’s enlightened hiring of Bernini, the tale is full of genius, including the temperamental Michelangelo, whose painstaking designs infused the Basilica with harmony. No less interesting are the popes themselves, with their foibles and struggles to redefine the Church’s image through the Basilica. Though the cost of St. Peter’s provoked the wrath of the Protestant Reformation, its own transformation reflected the rise of a revitalized city. Scotti’s skill lies in depicting these events with insight, humor, and reverence. Though nonfiction, this book reads like a novel, full of elegance and verve, a testament to a building that has, for many, become so much more.