The cloister next to St. Peter’s Church in Montorio contains one of the most beautiful architectural creations in the world, the Tempietto of Bramante, probably built between 1502 and 1507, with later modifications such as the access to the crypt through a double staircase, designed by Bernini.
The Tempietto marks the spot where it was believed to be the most sacred of Rome: the site of the crucifixion of St. Peter. It is said that this idea has its origin in a curious interpretation of the tradition that Peter was crucified between two goals; these were high marks that marked each end of a classic circus (in this case, the Vatican circus).
These landmarks, in terms of form, were something between an obelisk and a very elongated (much smaller and finer) pyramid, similar to the Pyramid of Céstio. For centuries, this pyramid was known as Remus’ goal as another building, near the Vatican, as Romulo’s goal. Apparently it was calculated that the location of St. Peter in Montorio was equidistant between these two goals, and therefore, it was the true inter two goals of the tradition. It is said that a much older church, dedicated to St. Peter, existed on the site.
The purity of the lines and the harmonious proportions of this small circular temple provide a grandiose effect, despite the small dimensions. Framed in the shadowy arch of the cloister, which is now part of the Spanish Academy, the Tempietto shines golden over the blue of the sky, like a precious reliquary placed on a celestial altar.