1500 – 1600
End of the Renaissance and the Reformation

Bramante's Tempietto

Donato Bramante, Tempietto, c. 1502, San Pietro in Montorio, Rome

Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker

The "Tempietto" or little temple is a martyria— that is, it marks the traditional site of Saint Peter's crucifixion (his martyrdom). It is perhaps the most perfect expression of Renaissance Italy's conception of classical harmony and order.

The basilica, which has a long axis that focuses attention on the altar, has been the most popular type of church plan. The other common plan is the central plan, usually based either on a circle (as here in the Tempietto), or on a Greek cross (a cross with equal arms). Both plans derive from ancient pagan architecture. The central plan was influenced by ancient Roman architecture such as the Pantheon, and was very popular among High Renaissance architects. The circle may have also had spiritual associations. The circle, which has no beginning and no end, can symbolize the perfection and eternal nature of God. For some thinkers in Antiquity and the Renaissance, the universe itself was constructed in the form of concentric circles with the sun, moon and stars moving in circular orbits around the earth.

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