The current Pinecone Courtyard takes its name from the colossal bronze Pigna (pinecone) sculpture. Famously described by Dante in his Inferno, this sculpture was likely discovered in the Middle Ages at a sanctuary dedicated to the Egyptian gods Isis and Serapis at the Campus Martius in Rome. Though initially placed in the atrium of the old St. Peter’s Basilica, together with the two bronze peacocks of Hadrian, the Pigna was later relocated in 1608 and positioned as the crowning piece for the double staircase of the Nicchione — the central Niche of the Vatican courtyard— again, flanked by the two peacock sculptures. The Pinecone Courtyard was part of the grand construction of the Belvedere Courtyard, designed by Bramante and commissioned by Pope Julius II (della Rovere, 1503-1513) soon after his accession to the throne of Peter. This large architectural project was started right after 1504, but was realized over the course of many decades.
Over time, certain modifications were made that compromised the elegance of Bramante’s initial design. The Belvedere Courtyard had to connect the medieval palace next to St. Peter’s with the Villa Belvedere, erected for Pope Innocent VIII atop of Vatican Hill. Today, the Pinecone Courtyard is divided into its own autonomous entity. Lining the east side of the Courtyard is an original Bramante wing, which houses the Museum Gallery of Chiaramonti; to the north lies another Bramante building that, while first begun by Pirro Ligorio under Pope Pius IV (Medici 1560-65), gained its current, large niche façade (the Nicchione) during the papacy of Clement IX (Albani, 1700-1721). The corridor to the west was constructed by Mascherino, according to the plans of Bramante, under Pope Gregory XIII (Boncompagni, 1572-1585) with the addition of a loggia built on its upper floor in the eighteenth century. Finally, the Braccio Nuovo (“New Wing”) by Raphael Stern, still today closes the space to the south, where terraces once opened towards St. Peter’s Basilica.
The appearance of the internal and external facades of the corridors are very diverse: those which overlook the Courtyard, from the corridor called the “hall of pleasure” in the sixteenth century, are ornate, yet the external ones, known as the “moenia Belvidere,” are unadorned and functioned as walls of defense in place of those demolished during the pomerium of Nicholas III. Bramante had designed a complex system of architecture dominated by the Corinthian order for the façade of the Pinecone Courtyard, which had always been the starting point throughout its many stages of development and modification. These façades are among those that have defined the architecture of the Renaissance, those which have influenced architectural form for centuries, throughout the world. The sophisticated syntax of the order should be recovered in full by careful work that pays attention to all the details in part hidden by interventions subsequent to construction. During this past year, work has continued on the outside of the galleries, especially focusing on the possibility of developing an approach that aesthetically combines the different parts of the building, with respect to the philology of its stratographic history and that conserves and consolidates, as much as possible, its substance and its original materials, such as the historic plasters and moldings of the façade. As stated in last year Wishbook, this restoration regards solely the architectural structure of the courtyard and does not consider the Archaeological nor Egyptian collections exposed in this area. Presently, we are not in a position to give an accurate price on the project, since there are still studies and meetings going on in order to determine the best restoration procedures.
Wall of the “Nicchione” both facades € 1.980.000,00 Approx $ 2.240.000,00
West Wing (ex BAV) € 1.430.000,00 Approx $ 1,612,500.00
Braccio Nuovo Wing € 1.430.000,00 Approx $ 1,612,500.00
Est Wing € 1.430.000,00 Approx $ 1,612,500.00
New Lighting System € 1.430.000,00 Approx $ 1,612,500.00