Tempietto del Bramante, 1502
A beautiful Renaissance masterpiece, the Tempietto del Bramante, built by the prestigious Bramante architect in 1502 as a commemorative tomb is considered a treasure of Renaissance art for its design.
The construction was commissioned to Bramante by the King of Spain, as the monastic complex (S. Peter in Montorio church and its monastery) belonged to a Spanish congregation: it was meant to celebrate the martyrdom of St. Peter which, according to a tradition, took place right on the Gianicolo hill.
The small temple, monoptero, has a cylindrical body, which constitutes the cell of the temple, whose masonry is dug by unusually deep niches and marked by pilasters as a projection of the columns of the peristyle.
The building is surrounded by a Doric colonnade raised on steps; on the columns runs an entablature conforming to Vitruvian indications, with a frieze decorated with triglyphs and metopes.
The columns are in gray granite, the rest in travertine.
The inside of the temple houses on the altar a statue of St. Peter by an anonymous Lombard.
The floor is made of polychrome marble tiles, in the Cosmatesque style, the subject of a certain revival at the end of the 15th century.
The temple is above a circular crypt whose center indicates the place where the cross of martyrdom was planted, the ideal axis of the whole building.
The crypt is accessed by external stairs built in the 17th century; originally there was only a trap door.
Bramante‘s work is a clear reference to ancient architecture, it is consciously shaped on the circular peripteral temple, used in ancient Roman architecture and of which examples were clearly visible: the Temple of Vesta in the Forum and the Temple of Hercules Triumphant.
Another reference by Bramante was the much larger bulk of the Pantheon, with a circular plan. In fact, the construction of the temple is at the center of the research that involved all the architects of the Renaissance relating to the central plan as a model for representing divine reality and the cosmos; this in particular for the circular shape, conceptual and visual expression of the “figure of the world”.
Bramante‘s architectural work also finds a parallel in some pictorial works, including Raphael‘s contemporary painting, “The Marriage of the Virgin“, confirming the importance of the circular temple theme in the culture of the early 16th century.
The construction is conceived through simple geometric relationships:
the height (including architrave, frieze and cornice) is equal to the distance from this to the top of the dome;
the dome of the building has a radius equal to its height, and to the height of the drum on which it rests; in this it has a clear relationship with the Pantheon (in which the dome, also a hemisphere, is exactly half the height of the complete building);
the diameter of the external circumference of the columns is equal to 3/2 of the diameter of the dome.
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