Rorate Caeli

The 500th anniversary of the New St.Peter's


"This day, which was the Saturday in Albis and 18th of the present month of April, we marched in procession to the spot on which we were to place the foundation of the Roman Basilica of Saint Peter, Prince of the Apostles, in the Vatican; having blessed with our own hands the first stone marked with the sign of the Cross, we placed it on that same spot. May the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ grant strength so that what we have begun with fervor may be finished and reach completion for the praise and glory of God."
With such words, Pope Julius II described in a letter to King Henry [VII] of England the events which took place in the site of the old Constantinian Basilica of Saint Peter on a day like today, a Saturday in Albis, in the year of Our Lord of 1506, when the first stone of the new building was placed under what would become one of the four pillars of the Michelangelo Dome, the Veronica Pillar. For more than three months, we have been celebrating with a small seal in this little corner of the web the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the works of the new building of the Patriarchal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican. Julius II may have not been one of the greatest Popes, but he surely was a great man, whose forces, after his accession to the Apostolic Throne, were dedicated almost entirely, in arms, in politics, in the arts, and in everything he did, to the greater glory of God and to the exhaltation of Holy Mother Church.

Rome had housed great churches since the time of Constantine, including the badly damaged Old St. Peter's, but, despite the splendor of the great Christian Basilicas, the most majestic signs of greatness all around -- from the Colosseum to Santa Maria dei Martiri (the Pantheon) to Castel Sant'Angelo (Hadrian's Mausoleum) -- were remnants of the old pagan rulers of the mighty empire. On April 18, 1506, a monument would be born above the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles which would rival and surpass all the great monuments of the Roman past, a monument whose mere sight makes one proclaim: "This is Christendom! This is the work of a regenerated Rome!"

No signs of barbarism, only pure classical beauty, enriched by the symbols of the One True Faith, in mighty architectural splendor.

The interior decoration is, of course, of variable quality -- and indeed it is not an artificial insipid building, as its pale British imitation: it lives and exudes Tradition, it gathers the treasures of Antiquity, the glories of Renaissance purity, and an unapologetic Tridentine splendor.


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