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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Saint Longinus by Bernini

Saint Longinus by Bernini

Saint Longinus by Bernini

The Statue of Saint Longinus by Bernini was created for one of the niches at the crossing of St. Peter’s Basilica. In the nave of St. Peter’s Basilica within the four piers, supporting the dome, each pier has a niche. In niche one of the four statues associated with the basilica’s primary holy relics. This statue of Saint Longinus holding the spear that pierced the side of Jesus is one of these four statues. The sculptor, Bernini, has depicted a dramatic narrative showing Longinus’ conversion. Bernini’s skill in manipulating marble ensured that he became a worthy successor of Michelangelo, far outshining other sculptors of his generation.

Longinus is a mythical name of Christian history given to the Roman soldier who pierced Jesus in his side with a lance, the “Holy Lance” during the Crucifixion. This act created the last of the Five Holy Wounds of Christ. The Holy Lance, also known as the Holy Spear, the Spear of Destiny, or the Lance of Longinus. According to the Gospel of John, it is the lance that pierced the side of Jesus as he hung on the cross. There have been three or four significant relics that are claimed to be the Holy Lance or parts of it. A spearpoint fragment from the Holy Lance is also conserved in St. Peter’s Basilica. Longinus’ legend grew over the years to the point that he was said to have converted to Christianity after the Crucifixion, and he is traditionally venerated as a saint in several Christian communions.

The Statue of Saint Longinus is one of these four statues. The four sculptures set in the niches of the four piers supporting the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica are:

Gian Lorenzo Bernini

The sculptor, Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598 – 1680) was an Italian sculptor and architect. As the leading sculptor of his age, he is credited with creating the Baroque style of sculpture. Also, he was a painter and a man of the theatre. As an architect and city planner, he designed both secular buildings and churches and chapels, as well as massive works combining both architecture and sculpture, especially elaborate public fountains.

St. Peter’s Basilica

The Papal Basilica of St. Peter is an Italian Renaissance church in Vatican City, which is the papal enclave within the city of Rome. St. Peter’s is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and the largest church in the world. Catholic tradition holds that the Basilica is the burial site of Saint Peter, a leading Apostle of Jesus and the first Bishop of Rome. Saint Peter’s tomb is supposedly directly below the high altar of the Basilica.

Reflections

  • Saint Longinus is usually represented in Christian Art wearing the uniform of a Roman soldier, and he has a lance or spear in his hand.

Explore Masterpieces of St. Peter’s Basilica

Saint Longinus

  • Title:                Saint Longinus
  • Artist:              Bernini
  • Year:                1647
  • Materials:        Marble
  • Museum:         St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

Bernini

  • Name:                 Gian Lorenzo Bernini
  • Born:                   1598 – Naples, Kingdom of Naples, in present-day Italy
  • Died:                   1680 (aged 81) – Rome, Papal States, in present-day Italy
  • Nationality:          Italian
  • Movement:          Baroque style
  • Notable works:

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“What we have is given by God, and to teach it to others is to return it to him.”
– Gian Lorenzo Bernini

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Photo Credit: By Use the force (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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