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. The nave of St. Peter’s Basilica has four piers that support the dome. Each pier has a niche with a sculpture of a saint.
The four statues, one in each niche, represent the Basilica’s most famous holy relics. The statue of Saint Longinus was created to hold the spear that pierced the side of Jesus.
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 the name that Christian history has 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 relics that are claimed to be the Holy Lance or parts of it. A spearpoint fragment from the Holy Lance is 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.
Saint Longinus is usually represented in Christian paintings wearing the uniform of a Roman soldier, and he has a lance or spear in his hand.
The Dome Pier Sculptures in St. Peter’s Basilica
The sculptures set in the niches of the four piers supporting the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica are:
Saint Andrew by Francois Duquesnoy was created to honor the relic of the apostle’s skull.
Saint Veronica by Francesco Mochi depicted the frantic Saint Veronica displaying the Veil of Veronica and was created to honor the relic of the Veil of Veronica.
Saint Helena carrying the True Cross and the Holy Nails was created to honor the relics of the True Cross and the Holy Nails.
The Statue of Saint Longinus by Bernini shows the saint holding the spear that pierced the side of Jesus is one of these four statues.
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.
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.
- Title: Saint Longinus
- Artist: Bernini
- Year: 1647
- Materials: Marble
- Museum: St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
- 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:
St Longinus: Executioner, Convert and Martyr
A Tour of St. Peter’s Basilica
- Pietà by Michelangelo
- Saint Helena by Andrea Bolgi
- Saint Longinus by Bernini
- Saint Andrew by Francois Duquesnoy
- Saint Veronica by Francesco Mochi
A Tour of Italy’s Museums
- Santa Maria Delle Grazie
- Sforza Castle Museums
- Brera Art Gallery, Pinacoteca di Brera
- Museo Poldi Pezzoli
“What we have is given by God, and to teach it to others is to return it to him.”
– Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Photo Credit: By Use the force (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons