(b. 1444, Fermignano, d. 1514, Roma)

Exterior view

Tempietto, San Pietro in Montorio, Rome

It was probably about 1502 that Bramante received the commission for his epoch-making Tempietto, even though its style suggests that the design, which is undocumented, was substantially redrafted several years later. The date 1502 appears in an inscription in the crypt and refers either to the commission - transmitted by Cardinal Carvajal from Ferdinand II, King of Sicily and Aragón, and Isabella, Queen of Castile and León - or to the actual beginning of work. The circular building, which stands in a courtyard next to San Pietro in Montorio, serves as a shrine marking the supposed site of St Peter's crucifixion; at its very centre is the hole reputedly for the cross, exposed in the crypt and also visible through an opening in the paved floor above.

Despite its tiny size, the Tempietto is majestically conceived. The shrine is encircled by a ring of sixteen Doric columns raised on three steps, with an entablature and balustrade above; the upper level has a drum and a dome with a crowning finial (altered in 1605). Under the colonnade, respondent pilasters frame windows alternating with niches and three portals (only one of which is original); panelled pilaster-strips around the drum frame a similar arrangement of openings. The interior also has Doric pilasters but with alternating narrow and wide bays, the ample niches in the wide bays for the portals (originally only one) and the altar.

In its basic design and function, Bramante's Tempietto can be related to structures built to house precious relics, such as Matteo Civitale's Tempietto for the Volto Santo (1484) in San Martino, Lucca. Yet despite the externally expressed drum, with its arguably Christian associations, the design is conceived much more on the model of an ancient round peripteral temple.

View the ground plan and section of Tempietto.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.