Knights of Columbus supports restoration of baldacchino in St. Peter’s Basilica
By Cecilia Engbert
The Knights of Columbus will fund a yearlong restoration of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s iconic baldacchino above the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica, Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly announced Jan. 11 at a Vatican press conference with Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, president of the Fabbrica di San Pietro.
The 10-story bronze, marble and gilded wood structure was commissioned by Pope Urban VIII and finished in 1633. Experts with the Fabbrica de San Pietro, the institution responsible for maintaining the basilica, plan to complete the comprehensive restoration — the first since 1758 — in time for the 2025 Jubilee Year of Hope.
Announcing the Order’s financial support, Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly emphasized the spiritual significance of the baldacchino, which stands over the tomb of St. Peter the Apostle.
“On behalf of the Knights of Columbus and our more than 2 million members in 13 countries around the world, we are honored to lend our support to this project, which is more than caring for a magnificent piece of art,” the supreme knight said. “It points to the reality of God’s love for us and his coming down to earth to dwell with us and to build the Church upon St. Peter and his profession of faith.”
Dr. Pietro Zander, head of the Necropolis and Artistic Heritage Section of the Fabbrica di San Pietro, will lead the project, which will involve state-of-the-art technology, including 3D modeling and drone videography.
“A prerequisite for planning the work is in fact the knowledge that we are dealing with a giant,” Zander said at the press conference. “A giant of art of all time, but even before that, a giant in form and size.”
The baldacchino’s 66-foot-tall spiral columns hold up a massive bronze canopy topped by four larger-than-life-size angels. At its apex, a cross stands on a globe, symbolizing the world’s redemption by Christ.
The Order has a long history of supporting the work of the pope and the Vatican, beginning with Pope Benedict XV’s request that the Knights open sports fields to serve the poor youth of Rome following World War I. Since 1980, the Knights has sponsored 17 Vatican restoration projects, including the cleaning of the façade of St. Peter’s Basilica in anticipation of the Jubilee Year 2000, work in the Vatican Grottoes, and the restoration of a 7-foot-tall 14th-century wooden crucifix that was present in the original St. Peter’s Basilica.
“I’d like to thank our Holy Father, Pope Francis, as well as Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, for allowing us to partner in this project,” the supreme knight said. “In addition to all the service we carry out for the poor, for our parishes and families, we Knights are very grateful for the privilege of serving the Church in this way.”
CECILIA ENGBERT is a content producer for the Knights of Columbus communications department.