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St. Peter's by Keith Miller

St. Peter's

by Keith Miller

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392453,086 (3.5)None
St Peter's is apart from anything else immediately recognisable to us all from its recurring television appearances as the centre of the Catholic world. This work offers an account of a world-famous building; who built it; what it looks like and why, and how it affects the tourist or pilgrim. Originally published: 2007.… (more)



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I picked up this volume on a whim in a Rome bookstore the day after I visited St Peter's for the first time, and read it on the plane home to Canada. This is the first time I've read anything by Miller, and anything from the Wonders of the World series, and I have to say I love the concept. The mix of history, aesthetic & cultural analysis, and personal observation really appeals to me. Each chapter constitutes another widely-informed lecture on a particular aspect of the cathedral, and I feel that I learned something interesting from each one. A good example is the chapter about the Basilica's shrine of St Peter and the claim that his bones were found in a tomb beneath it. I had previous read Michael Grant's _Saint Peter_, which is consider to be a pretty authoritative historical biography, but this book has a much better, more illuminating, more detailed account of how this belief came to be held and propagated. I rather wish I'd read this book beforehand, but I will definitely have it tucked under one arm the next time I visit St Peter's in Rome. ( )
  jrcovey | May 29, 2013 |
Despite the paucity of illustrations (a problem with all the books in the Wonders of the World series), this is an excellent discussion of the history, significance, and influence of this extraordinary building. One of the great things about Miller's text is the way in which the individual architectural and sculptural elements of the basilica are tied to broader architectural, urban, political, and religious strands of history. The building is the starting point for the author's fascinating, ever outward-spiralling historical meanders. Though focusing on the church, the book could almost serve as an introduction to the history of Rome from the late antique period through the early modern era. One of the best sections is the account of the excavations of the Vatican necropolis under the nave and crossing of the present basilica undertaken in the mid-twentieth century to uncover the archaeological remains of Peter's tomb. Miller gives the reader a vivid sense of the sensations one experiences actually descending into the necropolis and of the building anticipation one feels when moving towards the supposed remains of Peter directly beneath Bernini's spectacular baldacchino. Miller's well-written text is a model of clarity and engaging, passionate writing. Except for the brief but odd detour into post-Elizabethan English history towards the end of the book, Miller succeeds in providing a fresh accounting of this over-familiar yet still massively mysterious structure.
  pranogajec | Sep 24, 2010 |
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