Filarete’s Door of Saint Peter’s Basilica
The facade of Sain Peter’s basilica displays five bronze doors matching the five gates of the atrium. Four of them have been molded by major contemporary sculptors: starting from the right we find the Holy Door by Vico Consorti, the Door of the Sacraments by Venanzo Crocetti; the Gate of Good and Evil by Luciano Minguzzi, the Gate of Death by Giacomo Manzù. The central gate is the only ancient one: it was built in the 15th century, when Pope Eugene IV commissioned it to the Florentine Antonio Verulino, known as the Filarete (i.e., the friend of virtue). Filarete decided to abandon the traditional bristle scheme of the contemporary bronze doors, to adopt larger tiles: from top to bottom we find Christ on the throne and on the right the Virgin in the throne; in the central tiles, St. Paul with the sword and the mystical vase of flowers flanked by St. Peter handing the keys to kneeling Pope Eugene IV; the lower panes, finally, are reserved to the martyrdom of the two saints: on the left St. Paul appears to Plautilla and is then beheaded, whiole on the right is represented the Crucifixion of St. Peter. Filarete certainly had to be satisfied with his work – whose completion took 12 years – so much so that he signed it all over the place. His enthusiasm, however, was not shared by his contemporaries, who, on several occasions, pointed out the clumsiness, and even the roughness of the composition. Vasari’s judgment was particularly harsh,, and he complained loudly about the “shocking manner” (his words) in which the tiles had been fused. Nevertheless, today the bronze door of Filarete is the only survivor of six centuries of history, moreover occupying the place of honor, in the center. Vasari, eat your words.