Not to long ago I was talking to a priest I had met through my mom. During the pleasant conversation we had, he started to talk to me about his recent trip to Italy. He is a brilliant man with passion for art. He takes classes when time allows to learn the techniques and methods of artist that lived centuries ago. During this visit he toured many of these famous works or art and mentioned how life-changing it was to see in person. However, even with the vast amount of beauty he saw, he talked extensively about the artist and sculpture Giovanni Bernini, and his masterpiece, Cathedra Petri (The Chair of Saint Peter).
Giovanni was asked to create this work of art for St. Peter’s Basilica. He created a work of art around the chair which was believed to belong to St. Peter himself. As you start to look upward from the chair you will notice the beautiful sculpture work that surrounds the stained glass which sits above the chair. The clouds on either side of the chair provide a feeling of ascension up toward the holy spirit. At the same time the clouds can also be interpreted as offering the feeling of declension to our world. Some also look at the clouds as providing a sense of depth thrusting the chair forward. Around the stained glass features angles who frame and bring focus to the holy spirit. A dove, which is one of the most common symbols for the holy spirit, is represented in the center of the window. Using stained glass, and possibly the use of enamel paint, a white light illuminates from the dove. As you look further out from the center, rays burst outward through the stained glass and continue through the sculpture. The rays continue to push through the clouds that surround the angles, showing the strength and brilliance of the holy spirit. Bernini’s masterpiece, Catherdra Petri, is complimented by its surroundings and sits under one of the greatest architectural accomplishments of its time, Michelangelo’s dome.
Bernini gave us a true masterpiece. It combines architectural design, magnificent sculptures, and beautiful stained glass. It sits in one of the most famous cathedrals in the world. In the coming days I will go into detail on Bernini’s stained glass work within the piece, what it means to me and how we can apply lessons learned to modern works.