The façade of the Basilica dei Santi XII Apostoli is crowned with thirteen statues, which depict Christ and his twelve Apostles. Each of the pedestals is inscribed with a single letter; Christ, for example, stands above the letter O. But what is the meaning of the thirteen letters: F. L. D. L. C. S. O. T. C. E. C. V. B.?
The façade was originally built at the end of the 15th century by Baccio Pontelli (1450-92). Pontelli's design was changed in the 17th century when Carlo Rainaldi (1611-91) inserted windows into the upper arches and added the statues.
The work was paid for by Cardinal Lorenzo Brancati, who was the chief librarian at the Vatican. The cardinal wanted his patronage to be publicly recognised, but he knew that a full-blown inscription on the facade of the church would not be acceptable. And so Cardinal Brancati came up with something more subtle: F(rater) L(aurentius) D(e) L(aureolo) C(onsultor) S(ancti) O(fficii) T(heologus) C(ardinalis) E(piscopus) C(ustos) V(aticanae) B(ibliothecae) [Brother Lorenzo de Laureolo, Advisor, Theologian of the Holy Office, Cardinal, Bishop, Guardian of the Vatican library].
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
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