(b. ca. 1400, Firenze, d. 1469, Roma)

Bronze door

Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican

Filarete is first recorded in 1433 in Rome, where he attended the coronation of the Emperor Sigismund. Presumably the same year he was commissioned by Pope Eugenius IV to design and execute the bronze door of the main porch of the old St Peter's (inscribed and dated, 1445). The unsettled political conditions during the pontificate of Eugenius IV (1431-47) and the depiction of events during 1438-42 in the small, friezelike reliefs have led to the supposition that Filarete was not continuously engaged on the door and at one point was given a change of programme.

The two wings of the door each consist of three rectangular fields of different size with large figures; between these are smaller figural friezes. Pope Paul V later removed the doors (1619) to the central porch of the new St Peter's, where narrow rectangular fields were added above and below. The figures portrayed in the main fields are: Christ enthroned giving his blessing (top left); Mary enthroned (top right); St Paul (middle left); St Peter with Eugenius IV kneeling at his feet being given the keys (middle right); the martyrdom of St Paul (bottom left); and the martyrdom of St Peter (bottom right). The small friezelike figures in the relief between the main fields portray events from the pontificate of Eugenius IV. Antique and contemporary portraits, mythological scenes and animals are inserted in the acanthus tendrils.

The juxtaposition of Classical and Early Christian elements is a remarkable feature of the door, which is one of the earliest examples of Roman Renaissance sculpture. The scheme is intended to portray the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church and the Papacy, with its seat in Rome, in both its spiritual and temporal aspect. Stylistically the influence of the Classical world is visible in such detailed motifs as the disciples' clothing, the architecture and topographical reconstructions of the city of Rome, the acanthus tendrils and the profiles of Caesar and mythological scenes taken from Ovid's Metamorphoses.