Under the administrative buildings of the Vatican city, a small staircase leads to an astonishing necropolis. Adorned with mosaics, it houses 2,000-year-old tombs. There are buried certain horsemen of chariot races, who competed in skill in the circus located not far from there. It is also there that Peter, who came from the East to deliver the message of Christ, was, according to the New Testament, crucified by order of Nero in 64 AD.
Two hundred and fifty years later, on this same Roman hill, that of the Vatican, was launched the construction by the Emperor Constantine, converted to Christianity, of the first Saint Peter’s Basilica, where tradition locates the tomb of the Prince of apostles.
Now disappeared, the Constantinian building has been entirely recreated in three dimensions from a 17th century manuscript.e century. Through the magic of digital modeling, the basilica, with its hundred-meter-long nave and its monumental mosaic adorning the apse, materializes on the screen. This is one of the many merits of this abundant documentary which retraces the major architectural and artistic stages of the Vatican city. From the projects of the architect Bramante to the colonnades by Bernini, from the frescoes by Fra Angelico in the Nicoline chapel to that of Raphael in the apartments of Julius II, all these marvels are placed in the political and religious context of their realization.
Decodings that allow for daring interpretations, such as that of the historian Giovanni Careri on the melancholy characters wearing armbands and yellow clothes, infamous signs associated with Judaism, painted on the vaults of the Sistine Chapel. Embodiments of disbelief in the revelation of the divinity of Christ, these figures signify Michelangelo’s difficulties in being a good Christian.