ARNOLFO DI CAMBIO
(b. ca. 1245, Colle di Valdelse, d. ca. 1310, Firenze)

Tomb of Boniface VIII

1294-96
Marble, height 120 cm, width 95 cm, depth 35 cm
Musei Vaticani, Vatican

The tomb of Pope Boniface VIII, executed by Arnolfo in St Peter's between 1294 and 1296, has reached us only fragmentarily and out of context, and the reconstruction of the whole presents many problems. The principal remains, at present in the Vatican Grottos, include two angels holding back curtains and the recumbent figure in pontificial robes on the sarcophagus, which is covered with rich draped fabrics and embroidered with the arms of the Caetani family, repeated below in the mosaic of the plinth. Further, a series of architectural and sculptural fragments with Cosmatesque decoration of uncertain provenance survives, with further complicated attempts at reconstruction of the whole, destroyed in 1605 together with Old St peter's, but fortunately documented by a series of different sources, both graphic and documentary.

Based on these, it has been possible to determine the original structure of the tomb. It took the form of a small chapel, placed behind the counter-facade of the early Christian basilica, bounded by an iron enclosure containing at its centre an altar dedicated to Pope Boniface IV (608-15). The ceiling of the chapel presented an extrados cupola decorated with at the base with a rich gallery of gables and standing on four architraved columns. Inside, on the back wall, opposite the altar and under a mosaic panel, the recumbent figure was placed n the sarcophagus between a niche framed with drapery and flanked by two curtain-holding angels.

The authorship of the tomb is based on epigraphical sources, referring the mosaic to Jacopo Torriti and the definition of the structural project to Arnolfo.