Basilica: The Splendor and the Scandal: Building St. Peter's

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Overview

It was the splendor—and the scandal—of the age. In 1506, the ferociously ambitious Renaissance Pope Julius II tore down the most sacred shrine in Europe—the millennium-old St. Peter's Basilica built by the Emperor Constantine over the apostle's grave—to build a better basilica. Construction of the new St. Peter's spanned two centuries, embroiled twenty-seven popes, and consumed the genius of the greatest artists of the age—Michaelangelo, Bramante, Raphael, and Bernini. The cost of building the new cathedral was ...

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Basilica: The Splendor and the Scandal: Building St. Peter's

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Overview

It was the splendor—and the scandal—of the age. In 1506, the ferociously ambitious Renaissance Pope Julius II tore down the most sacred shrine in Europe—the millennium-old St. Peter's Basilica built by the Emperor Constantine over the apostle's grave—to build a better basilica. Construction of the new St. Peter's spanned two centuries, embroiled twenty-seven popes, and consumed the genius of the greatest artists of the age—Michaelangelo, Bramante, Raphael, and Bernini. The cost of building the new cathedral was costly in more than just monetary terms—the new basilica provoked the Protestant Reformation, dividing the Christian world for all time.

In this swift, colorful narrative, R. A. Scotti brings to life the artists and the popes, the politics and the passions behind this audacious enterprise. Scotti turns sacred architecture into a spellbinding human epic of enormous daring, petty jealousy, and staggering genius.

In this swift, colorful narrative, Scotti brings to life the artists and the popes, the politics and the passions behind this audacious enterprise. Scotti turns sacred architecture into a spellbinding human epic of enormous daring, petty jealousy, and staggering genius. Unabridged. 7 CDs.

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Editorial Reviews

The Providence Journal-Bulletin
[Scotti] ... appreciates the epic quest and querulousness and leaves us wondering how anything of any merit ever gets designed, built, consecrated and celebrated.
Entertainment Weekly
With her vivid portrayals, Scotti turns a potentially dry architectural tale into a Vatican version of Dynasty.
Wall Street Journal
Astonishes. A sweeping account of the largest assemblage of artistic genius on any project in history.
National Review
A fair and fascinating examination of splendorous and scandalous events. Scotti is a dramatic storyteller.
Publishers Weekly
Absorbing. A fascinating tale of genius, power, and money.
First Things
A lovely book, filled with historical detail and lively depictions. Captures an extraordinary period in the Church's life.
Richard John Neuhaus
Publishers Weekly
In this absorbing story of the construction of the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome-the grandest architectural undertaking of the High Renaissance-Scotti (Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938) shows how the construction fed the ambitions of 30 popes, including the indomitable Julius II, who laid the first stone in 1506; Leo X, the Medici pope whose extravagant spending fueled the resentment toward the papacy that culminated in the Protestant Reformation; Clement VII, on whose watch Rome was sacked by Emperor Charles V; and Sixtus V, who restored the ravaged city and pushed, against all odds, to have the great dome completed during his lifetime. In 1506, the great architect Donato Bramante envisioned a gigantic central crossing topped by a dome of such daring design that many believed it could not be built. Throughout the 100 years of construction, numerous architects, most of them consumed with pride, lofty ambition and professional jealousy, followed. Among them were Raphael, who died at age 37; Michelangelo, who accepted the job reluctantly at the age of 71; and Giacomo della Porta, who, in 1590, succeeded in raising the grand cupola. All are brought to life in this fascinating tale of genius, power and money. B&w photos not seen by PW. (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
There is a rich and turbulent history within the two million tons of stone that make up St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. Enthralled with its grand scale, unimagined costs (more than 46,800,052 ducats), and the confusion of ideas in building it, Scotti (Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938) undertook this history of the Basilica's design and history. Readers are also treated to the lives of artists and popes; a study of politics; and an examination of Roman culture. First constructed in the fourth century C.E. to honor the tomb of St. Peter, the early Christian edifice was gradually torn down and replaced by the current structure. Its construction spanned several centuries and involved many of the most brilliant architects of the early modern period, including Raphael, Michelangelo, and Bernini. More than 1300 years passed between Pope Sylvester I's dedication of Constantine's church (on which St. Peter's is built) and Pope Urban VIII's consecration of the new Basilica of St. Peter. For budget-conscious libraries, this may act as an alternative to William Tronzo's St. Peter's in the Vatican.-L. Kriz, West Des Moines P.L., IA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Fascinating history reveals how the world's most glorious house of worship emerged from decades of trial and scandal. The construction of St. Peter's Basilica spanned 120 years (1506-1626) and the reign of 27 popes. Scotti (Sudden Sea, 2003) argues convincingly that the project prompted Martin Luther to launch the Protestant Reformation, nearly bankrupted the Catholic Church and threatened to sink the papacy. But it ultimately produced one of humanity's most wondrous artistic achievements and revived the glory of Rome. The author deftly navigates the facts, dates and personalities involved, giving an immediacy and accessibility to this dense, complex saga. Not surprisingly, delicious ironies abound. Much of the funds to build St. Peter's came from the pillaging of New World natives by Spanish conquistadors. The ancient obelisk that still anchors St. Peter's Square was brought to Rome from Egypt by Caligula, the most debauched of Roman emperors. The massive dome that sits atop St. Peter's was partially constructed with material scavenged from the nearby Pantheon, a pagan temple. Naturally, heroes emerge in such a tale, among them Popes Julius II and Sixtus V, who took the massive project on their shoulders, and artists like Michelangelo, Raphael and Bernini, whose genius elevated the basilica from architecture to high art. The erratic Michelangelo took on the construction job reluctantly, then devoted his life to St. Peter's for 17 years, until his death at the age of 89. Bernini spent even more time on the project, designing the massive bronze canopy that dwarfs the altar, the colonnades of St. Peter's Square and many of the lavish fountains that still guide the faithful to the basilica'sfront door. In Scotti's capable hands, the story of St. Peter's becomes a riveting portrait of the papacy, complete with its triumphs, intrigue and excesses.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400152346
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/28/2006
  • Format: MP3 on CD
  • Edition description: MP3 - Unabridged CD
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


R. A. Scotti is the author of two previous works of nonfiction, including Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938. She has also written four novels. She lives in New York City.

British actress and narrator Josephine Bailey has won ten AudioFile Earphones Awards and a prestigious Audie Award, and Publishers Weekly named her Best Female Narrator in 2002.

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Table of Contents

Pt. I The Christian Caesar 1503-1513
1 The first stone, April 1506 3
2 The first St. Peter's 13
3 Il Terribilis 23
4 A Trojan horse 31
5 A surprise winner 41
6 Imperial dimensions 49
7 Vaulting ambition 57
8 Onward Christian soldiers 67
9 A Christian imperium 75
10 A viper's nest 89
11 The death of Julius 101
Pt. II The deplorable Medici popes 1513-1534
12 The first Medici prince 113
13 An empty stage 123
14 A Roman candle 129
15 The revenge of the Sangallos 137
16 Salvation for sale 145
17 Sweet revenge 149
18 A brief moment of truth 155
19 Medici redux 159
Pt. III The Michelangelo imperative 1546-1626
20 A violent awakening 171
21 Julius's folly 183
22 Motu Proprio 191
23 An immovable object 203
24 The swineherd who built Rome 209
25 Raising the dome 215
26 A new century 227
27 The knaves of St. Peter's 231
28 1,300 years later 239
Pt. IV Bernini's grand illusions 1623-1667
29 The romance of the baroque 245
30 Full circle 259
App The popes from Nicholas V to Alexander VII
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2008

    The World's Greatest Chruch

    I have been to St. Peters Basilica myself. As a boy I was fascinated by it. I've done the research, read countless books on the great artists who served as architects, even sketched it, and while I've been fascinated with it all my life I've never been able to translate my wonder to anyone without myself either going overboard or boring them to tears. However, this author makes it simple and understandable. She neither glosses over the poisonous Popes who were failures, nor does she cover up the enormous mistakes that led to the schism between Catholic and Protestant faiths. Instead what she does manage to tell is how a church the length of 2 football fields that took over a century to build came into being at all. It could have been a tremendous failure (and it very nearly did) but what happened instead made it a glory to God and a marvel of man. If you want a simple read that's thorough and fun you need to try this out.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 31, 2013

    A sweeping history of one of the world's most significant structures.

    When you think of the confidence and hutzpah required to tear down the original church of St. Peter and begin the process of calling on some of the great artistic and architectural geniuses ever known, you can begin to see the scope of this informative history of St. Peter's basilica. I've not only read this book I have given it as gifts.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The Basilica: Many faces, lots of time, a masterpiece

    Scotti details the intrigue, inspiration, planning, and lack of planning that went into the hundreds of years of building St. Peter's Basilica. She describes the personalities and the politics of getting it all started. The Basilica takes on a life of its own in her writing and she convinces us that the many disparate voices that were used to create this wonder somehow added value to their creation. The Basilica, conceived by Pope Leo, was a wonder from its inception but became even greater as it was changed and added to for the next few hundred years. Perhaps it is a real example of divine inspiration.

    The writing is very clear and concise. Her research is impressive and the final product is compelling. She particularly stresses the Renaissance and Baroque period when the Basilica was in its greatest danger of being destroyed or forgotten. The play of personalities is immense and she conveys this sense of lack of overall direction but somehow it grew to be the marvel it is today. This is a fascinating story well told. Scotti tells er tale in simple strightforward language. For those who have visited St. Peter's Basilica it was enlightening and for those who haven't seen it it would be tantilizing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2012

    This looks like a good book!

    From tthe front,it looks like good,interesting book

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 18, 2009

    Ok, but there are better opportunities to learn!

    Nothing special about this book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2006

    Basilca is more than a building but a development

    An excellent read and has led me to look into other works by R. A. Scotti. Far from a heavy read, it is light and even suspenseful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2006

    History Painted in Vivid Colors

    I just finished Basilica: The Splendor and The Scandal-Building St.Peters and I must say I am struck by how rich with detail and personality it was. It has been my experience that books of this vain tend to be cold and rather hard to get through, but not this one. The intimacy with which Scotti talks about each pope and artist brings them so clearly to life that you do not want to stop reading. I would recomend this book to anyone looking for a rich read. Scotti has found the perfect balance of architectural history and personal drama. I understand now what makes some books page turners.

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    Posted April 23, 2010

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    Posted April 20, 2011

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    Posted July 2, 2009

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