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Photographer's Note

VIEW FROM THE TOP

Saint Peter's Basilica is the largest church in Christendom, and the most recognizable landmark of the ‘Eternal City.’ Its construction was first commissioned in the mid 15th century, but the actual construction did not begin until 1506. The names of the artists and architects associated with it are synonymous with creative genius. Bramante, who hailed from Urbino, friend of Leonardo and Raphael, was the architect at the laying of the cornerstone. In the early 16th century Michelangelo carved the incomparable Pietá for the interior, and returned to paint the ceiling and one of the walls of Sistine Chapel. Leonardo’s unfinished painting, St. Jerome, hangs in the Vatican Museum. Raphael painted the series of large murals for the Pope’s Stanza, culminating with his masterpiece, the School of Athens. In 1546 Michelangelo became the official architect, designing the dome. By the time he died in 1564, only the cylindrical drum below the actual dome had been built. His design called for a hemispherical dome. The final dome shape followed a subsequent design of architect Giacomo della Porta, and has the shape of a paraboloid of revolution. Bernini, the successor to Michelangelo as the finest Renaissance sculptor, designed not only the great piazza, but he carved the statuary of the Apostles seen standing on the edge of the building. The 13 colossal statues depict (from left to right) St. Matthias, St. Simon, St. Bartholemeo, St. James the Less, St. John evangelost, St. Andrew, Christ the Redeemer, St. John the Baptist, St. James the Elder, St. Thomas, St. Phillip, St. Matthew, and St. Thaddeus.

Bernini also designed the altar, the Baldachino, that stands under the great dome. From the ground to the pinnacle of the lantern on the dome the height of the entire edifice measures 136 meters (448 ft), or as tall as a forty-five story building. The great edifice was completed in 1626, or 120 years after its construction began.

Other Trekearth members have presented views from the top, magical that it is. Ultimately, the success of the photograph depends on the light, and on this day, July 12, around 11:00 am the light was passable, with the sun almost overhead. It is possible for one to take an elevator to the top of the building, but then must climb up by foot the 320 steps to the top of the cupola, where a “lantern” crowns the dome. That is the level from which I took the photo. It’s a long way down, as one can judge by the size of the creatures strolling in St. Peter’s Square below (actually a pair of semicircles, designed by Bernini). The obelisk dates back to the 13th century BC, from the period of Ramses the Great of Egypt, and was transported to Rome in AD 37, to stand in the Circus of Nero about 150 meters away. The obelisk soars to 40 meters (131 ft) but appears like a matchstick from the top of the dome. The view from this vantage point suggests that the obelisk and the square in concert could be calibrated to make a colossal sun dial.

More than four decades ago, as a teenager, I had made the climb and shot a whole 8-mm reel of home movies from the same vantage point. A decade later, I climbed again, carrying my baby son. It was a great deal more difficult making the same ascent this time. More over there is only one very narrow staircase going up, and only one coming down. It is impossible to change one’s mind part of the way up — dozens of other tourists are making the same tortuous trek up. What relief it was to finally emerge at the top and see the breath taking view!

This image will be placed in a new group theme, DOMES. I Welcome others to contribute.

Nikon D70, 18-70 mm Nikkor lens, UV-filter, monopod. ISO 200.

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Additional Photos by Bulent Atalay (batalay) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6781 W: 471 N: 12169] (41261)
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