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

St. Peter's: back view

Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican

Michelangelo wrote a devastating letter criticising the design of Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, then accepted the commission to complete St. Peter's without pay, and developed a new, unified plan. He eliminated the ambulatories and the façade with towers. The Greek-cross plan of Bramante was reinstated, along with the unifying colossal order on the exterior.

In order to unify the exterior, Michelangelo used the Corinthian order as an embracing theme by pairing Corinthian pilasters in the lower mass of the church and pairing Corinthian columns in the peristyle and lantern of the dome. He designed a Florentine ribbed dome instead of Bramante's hemisphere, dividing it by sixteen ribs rather than the eight of the Florentine dome, and even these and the ribs of the culminating lantern are paired. Thus the entire church, from the ground to the sphere on the lantern, gives the impression of a colossal monolith.

At Michelangelo's death the drum and peristyle of the dome were still under construction. The dome as finally built was heightened somewhat from Michelangelo's original design, but the effect of the building, seen from the sides or back, follows his intentions.

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