Bramante’s Tempietto

March 27, 2008 / Art & Archaeology
Bramante’s tempietto (pronouced tem-PYET-toe, little temple), is one of the lesser known sights in Rome, but no less interesting for it. Built in 1502 as a martyrium on the spot (photo right) where Peter was supposedly crucified (upside down), this was Bramante’s first commission in Rome.

What is fascinating about it is how it blurs the line between architecture and sculpture. Belonging more to the latter ironically makes it perhaps the most “pure” example of the former, for Renaissance architecture at least. Very few other buildings embody the Renaissance’s ideal proportions in architecture with more grace (and those that do are usually Bramante’s as well).

How so? Walk up to the entrance of the cloister and notice the tempietto through the doorway . . . at this point it seems small, cramped, and unnaturally forced into the confined space (photo 2). Walk through the gated archway and into the courtyard however, and the cloister walls seem to fall away while the tempietto appears so much bigger than it really is (photo 3). Small surprise that this incredible architectural feat landed Bramante the commission to (re)-build St.Peter’s basilica.


by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

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