ST. PETER’S BASILICA, ROME, VIEW FROM DOORWAY: It’s not easy finding a different angle from which to shoot this most iconic building. I shot this one late one evening at the end of stroll in the Eternal City.
When St. Peter’s was built, a dense group of buildings—much of it housing, lay in front of the great square, blocking a decent distant view of the basilica. In 1651 the St. Peter’s Building Commission considered the building of a major thoroughfare between the Borgo Vecchio and the Borgo Nuovo to provide a longer vista. The plan was dropped due to cost and politics. Many more popes considered other options in subsequent years. It was Benito Mussolini who revived the idea and pushed ahead, establishing the view we have today. Construction began— with destruction– on October 29, 1936 when Mussolini himself wielded a pickaxe to begin tearing down the structures that blocked the view.
Shot handheld with a Nikon D3100, Nikon A-FS 10-24mm lens at 24mm, 1/13 sec, f3.5, ISO 800. Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
DOME AND BALDACCINO, ST. PETER’S BASILICA, ROME: Michelangelo became the chief architect at St. Peter’s in 1546. By the time of his death in 1564, the dome was still not complete. The vault was completed in 1590 by Giacomo della Porta. Domenico Fontana then built the lantern and the dome was complete by 1593. The interior of the dome is 42.3 metres in diameter and rises 120 meters above the floor. The baldacchino sits directly below the dome and is the main visual focal point of the great church. It is made from almost 1,000 tons of bronze that was removed from the roof of the Pantheon. Designed by Bernini, the baldacchino was completed in 1633, and is accented with gold leaves. It stands 30 metres tall. The beautiful spiral columns are similar in style to the original St. Peter’s Basilica.
Shot handheld with a Nikon D3100, Nikon A-FS 10-24mm lens at 10mm, 1/13 sec, f3.5, ISO 800. John Ecker | pantheon photography
CAPITOL DOME AND FRESCO, WASHINGTON, D.C.: True story… Several years ago, while in Rome, Italy, I was standing near St. Peter’s Square late in the evening. An American couple and their two children pulled up in a taxi and got out. They approached me, nodding to the dome, asking me if “that” (St. Peter’s Basilica) was the American embassy. First time outside of America, I’d guess.
The Capitol building dome in Washington does, of course, resemble the great Roman basilica. It has inspired countless other domes across the world. Washington D.C.’s Capitol dome is made of cast iron and weighs 8,909,200 lbs. The interior of the dome, as seen from the floor in these two photos, features a fresco painted by an Italian called Constantino Brumidi in 1865. The painting is called The Apotheosis of Washington. The painting depicts George Washington becoming a god (apotheosis) during America’s revolutionary war. Washington is draped in the royal colour purple. Forming a circle are 13 maidens, each with a star above her head, to represent the 13 original American colonies. And, above Washington’s head, is the banner E Pluribus Unum which means “out of many, one.”
Photos by John Ecker | pantheon photography
Top photo: Shot handheld with a Nikon D300, Nikon AFS 10-24mm lens at 10mm,1/60 sec., f5, ISO 640
Botton photo: Shot handheld with a Nikon D40X, Nikon AFS 18-200 lens at 170mm, 1/40 sec, f7.1, ISO 800
ST. PETER’S SQUARE: Pope John Paul died on April 2, 2005. At his funeral, the faithful chanted “Santo Subito” or “Sainthood immediately.” Pope Benedict then put his popular predecessor on the fast-track for sainthood by dispensing with the traditional five-year waiting period to start the process. In May, 2011, the former Pontiff moved another step toward sainthood when he was beatified in a St. Peter’s Basilica ceremony attended by a crowd estimated at 1.5 million people.
In St. Peter’s Square, a gigantic banner was hung in celebration of Pope John Paul’s beatification. It’s the largest photograph of him anywhere. This photo shows a group of Catholic pilgrims from Canada, walking through the square late at night.
Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography