Courtyard of the Pine Cone Vatican Rome
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History and description
The Cortile della Pigna was carved out of the Belvedere, which had been designed by Bramante in 1506. Julius II had commissioned the architect to do so, in order to connect the Palace of Innocnece VIII to the Sistine Chapel (both constructed in the late 15th century).
At the time, the courtyard consisted of three different levels, connected by ramps. The buildings lining the courtyard were characterized by wide arches.
In order to make the courtyard seem wider than it actually was, the pavement was slightly inclined toward the Sistine Chapel.
In 1565, the architect Pirro Ligorio built a large niche on the north side. Pirro used the dome of the Pantheon for his inspiration.
In the late 16th century, a new wing to the Library of Sixtus V divided the courtyard into two parts.
In 1822, the Braccio Nuovo was built, which meant that the original courtyard ended up divided into three sections, the Courtyard of the Library, the Courtyard of the Belvedere, and the Courtyard of the Pine Cone.
What to see
The most striking monument in the courtyard is the 4 meter high pine cone sculpture itself. The statue was found near the Pantheon, from where it was initially brought to the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica. In 1608 it was placed in its present spot. The two peacocks flanking the sculpture are copies of 2nd century ID originals (on display in the Braccio Nuovo).
The center of the courtyard is taken up by one of Arnaldo Pomodoro’s spheres. This work was placed here in 1990. Other versions of the spheres can be seen outside the United Nations building in New York and at Dublin’s Trinity College. There is also another one in Rome itself, at the Palazzo della Farnesina.
The pine cone gave its name to one of the central neighborhoods of the city, the rione Pigna.