Monday, July 02, 2007

Finished Basilica yesterday. Great book, I feel smarter just holding it my hand. The book follows the history behind the construction, design and creation of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome (technically Vatican City). The author does an excellent job of bringing the reader into the excitement and challenge of undertaking such an enormous building project, especially in the 1500's. And talk about drama, this book has poisonings, backstabbings, illegitimate children, rape and plundering and solid gold plates being tossed in the Tiber for sheer amusement!
St. Peter's was originally an ancient church built by Constantine after he first legalized Christianity and when it was becoming a hugely popular new religion. So Pope Julius II's idea, in the early 1500's, to tear down the old St. Peter's in order to build an enormous expensive new St. Peter's was met with outrage, anger and disbelief by the citizens of Rome and by Catholics across Europe. The books essentially follows each of the popes, who are essentially the money and control behind the project, that are involved in the century long process of building St. Peter's, and the architects and artists who lead the design and construction teams, with thousands of artisans, craftsmen and laborers. The building of the church, with the numerous changes in leadership, changes in artistic vision, and financial and political intrigues, took over 100 years to be completed. Through the sacking of Rome, through the deaths of numerous popes, the death of lead architects Sangallo, Michaelangelo, Raphael and countless other struggles, St. Peter's was born, born to be one of the largest churches in history and heart of the Catholic church for centuries to come. Reading this book makes me want to visit Rome again! The next book I'm starting tonight is the Mitford Sisters, non fiction but a complete departure from Basilica, I'll miss it.

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