(b. 1475, Caprese, d. 1564, Roma)

Interior of the dome

Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican

The dome, finished after Michelangelo's death, became the largest in the world. The central aisle has been spoilt by a nave and a façade whose cold secularity is redeemed solely by Bernini's magnificent colonnades. One must see Michelangelo's Saint Peter's from the west side to appreciate what was intended here; likewise one should cross the nave and, disregarding the bronze canopy and all later Baroque additions, look at the cruciform transepts and up towards the vaulted cupola.

The diameter of the dome (41,5 m) was designed to match the diameter of the Pantheon (42,7 m). Michelangelo monitored construction personally as far as the wall frieze of the drum with twin pilasters. Sixteen ribs were to extend from the pilasters to support the dome. The intermediate chambers tapering upwards are filled with alternating rectangles and tondi. The overwhelming height has not lost any of its power to impress even today. This effect was not necessarily reinforced by the mosaics inspired by the 1605 drawings of the Giuseppe Cesari.