The Chair Of Saint Peter: Thoughts

For this section there’s no real facts or figures here.  This is just me and what I interpreted from taking the time to appreciate Giovanni’s work of art on my own.

What interested me most about Giovanni work wasn’t the window, or the sculptures, or the chair, but how they all worked together.  Giovanni was an architect and sculpture at heart.  The craftsmanship throughout the sculptures around the chair and window are stunning.  He also understood the power of  light and how its relationship with stained glass could provide beauty to the viewer unobtainable in other mediums.


Giovanni’s work shows that all aspects of your design are important.   Where the artwork is, what colors flow throughout and surround the piece, where light comes from and the dramatic effects it can provide.  These are just a few issues taken in consideration when creating a masterpiece like The Chair Of Saint Peter.

I feel so many designers fail to take into account their complete surroundings. While there are designers that truly consider everything when designing, some others think more in terms of dollar and cents then creating a true work of art.  I truly feel as a designer, an artist, and a craftsman, the more information you have at you disposal regarding your work the better you can make it.  What happened to having passion for what you do; what you create?  I think this concept can flow into anyone’s everyday life.  In life so many of us perform our daily routine and only go as far as what we feel were compensated for.  The phrase “working for the weekend” comes to mind.  What about “working for the week?”  Why can’t we really push to go that extra mile, whether it be submitting a solid, neatly organized earnings report, or installing a newly built intricate stained glass window.  Where is that drive for perfection, for clarity, for consistency?

On a personal level people tend to wonder if the level of detail they commit to is worth it in their own lives.  We have all been there.  Something like this probably has gone through your mind at one point or another, “Well I’ve put this enormous amount of effort in for so long but I bet I can get away with….”  Over time people loose faith.  They wonder if committing to all aspects of what they do in their lives are worth the stress, time and money.  Sadly its so much easier to take the road most traveled.

Through Giovanni’s commitment to harnessing his skills with sculptures, his ability to create as an artist, and using his knowledge as an architect to bring it all together really spoke to me.  While it speaks to me outside of the normal artistic interpretation, that I feel, is what is so wonderful.  Art is subjective.  There is no right or wrong answer.

The immersion of art; the idea of fully committing to all aspects of what you do and how your product is presented, in regular every day life and through art, is a concept that is very close to my heart.  Viewing Giovanni’s artwork provided and immersive experience for me.  Immersion is not something that is easily obtainable and no issues can be overlooked. Since this issue is so important to art, and even everyday life, I want to take a closer look into the commitment of immersion in the near future.  There is one company that I feel does this better than any other.   As the blog grows I will be discussing Disney and how they relate to this idea.  An Idea they have executed so well over the years and how recently these qualities seem to have started to fade.

A strong understanding of immersion and what it takes to achieve it will bring any person, any designer, a stronger reputation and more success.


The Chair of Saint Peter: Stained Glass

In my last blog I gave an overview of Giovanni Bernini’s masterpiece, Cathedra Petri (The Chair of Saint Peter).  Today I wanted to take a closer look at the stained glass within the .

***Please Note: Currently I don’t have a way to head on down to Italy to view the window in person.  I have used various pictures across to the web to get the best read of the window I could.  Also, this is just on overview of the window.  While I mention some basic technical information I decided to keep it general so those of you unfamiliar with the stained glass design/building process wont be overwhelmed.  I hope to do some technical demonstration posts in the future.  But for today, were just going to relax and get the overall feel for what the work of art is. Here we go!

As I mentioned Bernini uses a dove at the center of the window as the representation of the holy spirit.  Upon closer inspection of the window the painting of the dove, as well as the rays that travel outward are fairly simple in design and execution.  It does seem that Bernini did work with some enamels (in addition to a lead based paint) to get the full effect of the white light illuminating from the Holy Spirit.  It is difficult to tell if he used a glass with an amber tint, if he used silver stained (a chemical based compound that stained the glass a golden yellow) or possibly a combination of the two.  Bernini wasn’t a stained glass artist.  While he understood the craft and could execute it effectively, he was not devoted to stained glass relative to other stained glass artists throughout history.  For some comparison you can find stained glass with beautifully complex painted figures from artists such as Albinas Elskus or Harry Clarke.

A window by Albinas Elskus

Simplicity runs throughout the window as the glazing ( the process in which the window is fabricated) is basic in its design.  Small similar colored glass is put together within lead came, soldered and weatherproofed using putty.  These panels were put into the oval shaped steel frame.  The heavy black lines you see are not lead but steel beams that divide the sections of the glass panels.  Those beams are all part of the overall steel frame.  The oval is intentional in its design as it gives the sense of constant motion spiraling around as we continue down our path towards reaching the holy spirit.  Bernini created a free moving stage through Cathedra Petri.  It gave a new feeling of life and was much less definitive than most works of art during this time.  Even though Bernini wasn’t a truly devoted stained glass artist, understanding the beauty of the art, he used this stained glass piece as the focal point of the entire cathedral.  Upon entering, this window that symbolizes the holy spirit demands your attention – the eye of God.  

A window by Harry Clarke
A window by Harry Clarke

Interestingly, looking at a close up of the window you can see errors in the stained glass panels themselves.  You will notice some lead lines that don’t follow the flow of the window.  These leads are most likely breaks that happened in the fabrication of the window, transportation to the cathedral or during the installation process.  Sometimes these errors may have a symbolism behind them but for these particular breaks I could not find any mention of this throughout my research.  The out of place lead lines you see are covering cracks in the glass not anticipated in the original design.  Due to the simplicity of the panel these errors are easy to spot when you are viewing a close up of the window.  While this doesn’t affect the beauty of what Bernini created, these errors are almost comforting to see.  It shows that even the most talented artists have errors within their work.  That only God is perfect.

Now that we have taken a closer look into the stained glass and we continue to move forward, I will go into detail on what this masterpiece means to me and how the lessons I’ve learned form it can be applied to our every day lives.

The Chair of Saint Peter

berninni_2Not 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 cloudsBerninni_4 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 berninni_3in 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.