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The 2019 Josephine Waters Bennett Lecture: The Winged Eye at Work: Leon Battista Alberti Surveys Old St. Peter's

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 January 2021

Anthony Grafton*
Affiliation:
Princeton University

Abstract

Leon Battista Alberti based his treatise “On the Art of Building” on close examination of a great many buildings. His survey of Old St. Peter's was especially thorough. He not only investigated the structure, but also ransacked written sources to re-create the church's original décor and to reconstruct the ways in which early popes had celebrated Mass and delivered sermons. Like Lorenzo Valla, he offered a suggestive and polemical history of the church. His ideas seemingly shaped the ways in which Pope Pius II restored the basilica, and his example shows that serious efforts to trace the history of Christianity long predated the Reformation.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s) 2021. Published by the Renaissance Society of America

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Footnotes

My heartfelt thanks to the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, the Biblioteca Riccardiana, the British Library, Eton College Library, the Pierpont Morgan Library, and Princeton University Library for allowing me to consult manuscripts; to Heather Hyde Minor, who invited me to present an earlier form of this paper at the Notre Dame Global Gateway in May 2018, and for her comments on that occasion; to Lukas Burkart, who invited me to present a later version as the Basel History Lecture in November 2018, and to Mario Wimmer, who translated the text into German, for his many helpful remarks; to Pamela Long, Carolina Mangone, and David Marsh for their invaluable criticisms and suggestions; and to Mary Curran for permitting me to dedicate this paper to the memory of Brian Curran. In May 2018 I had the good fortune to see the remnants of Maffeo Vegio's chapel for Saint Monica through the all-seeing eyes of Louise Grafton (d. 20 July 2019).

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