The facade of St Peter's Basilica is crowned with thirteen colossal statues. In the centre stands Christ the Redeemer (6 metres high) and you may be forgiven for assuming that he is flanked by his 12 apostles. However, this is not quite the case.
The basilica might be dedicated to St Peter, but the 'Prince of the Apostles' is nowhere to be seen atop the facade of the church. The twelfth figure is, in fact, St John the Baptist, who stands in the place of honour on the right side of Christ.
The statues were executed between 1612 and 1614 by an assortment of sculptors. From left to right they are: St Thaddeus (Carlo Fancelli), St Matthew (Bernardino Cennini), St Philip (Simeon Drouin), St Thomas (Simeon Drouin), St James the Great (Egidio Moretti), St John the Baptist (Simeon Drouin), Christ the Redeemer (Cristoforo Stati), St Andrew (Carlo Fancelli), St John the Evangelist (Antonio Valsoldo), St James the Less (Cristoforo Stati), St Bartholomew (Egidio Moretti), St Simon (Bernardino Cennini), St Matthias (Giuseppe Fontana).
The facade, which is 114.69 metres (376.3 ft) wide and 45.55 metres (149.4 ft) high, was designed by Carlo Maderno (1556-1629) and built between 1608 and 1612.
The building of the facade was undertaken during the reign of Pope Paul V (r. 1605-21). It is emblazoned with a long inscription, which proclaims, in letters 1 m high: IN HONOREM PRINCIPIS APOST PAVLVS V BVRGHESIVS ROMANVS PONT MAX AN MDCXII PONT VII (In honour of the Prince of Apostles, Paul V, Borghese, Roman, Pontifex Maximus, the year 1612, the seventh of his pontificate).
St Peter's Basilica was finally consecrated by Pope Urban VIII (r. 1623-44) on November 18th, 1626.
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
small-group walking tours
Search Walks in Rome: