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Donato Bramante

The Saint Peters Basilica
Donato Bramante

The 1500s were part of the Renaissance, a historical period that began in Europe in the early 1400s. Renaissance thinkers, teachers, and artists greatly admired the art, architecture, and writings of ancient Greece and Rome. The Renaissance was especially strong on the Italian Peninsula. The Roman Empire had been centered in Italy. Roman statues, arches, temples, domes, and columns could still be found in Italian cities. Renaissance architects studied those structures to understand Roman design and construction. One of the architects was Donato Bramante (1444–1514). In October 1505, Julius II hired Bramante to design the new basilica.

Bramante shared Julius’s vision of the basilica as a huge and magnificent building. The architect based his design on two ancient Roman buildings-the Basilica of Maxentius and the Pantheon. The Roman basilica was a public hall where people gathered. The Pantheon was a domed temple (place of worship) built for the Roman gods. The new basilica would have a large, open interior. It would be crowned by a round dome. For the basic shape of the building, Bramante chose a Greek cross. The cross is an important Christian symbol, and there are many varieties of cross shapes. A Greek cross has two bars of equal length, which cross in the center. The center of this cross would sit directly over the burial place of Saint Peter.

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