Saint Longinus (Bernini)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Saint Longinus
S. LONGINO, Bernini.jpg
Artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Year 1629-38 (1629-38)
Catalogue 28
Type Sculpture
Material Marble
Subject Saint Longinus
Dimensions 440 cm × 440 cm (170 in × 174 in)
Location St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

Saint Longinus is a sculpture by the Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Completed in 1638, the marble sculpture sits in the north-eastern niche in the crossing of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.[1] it is over four metres high. An early spectator of the statue, the English diarist John Evelyn, called it a work of "Colossean magnitude".[2]

Commissioning and Preparatory Studies[edit]

In the 1620s, St Longinus was one of four statues commissioned for the niches under the crossing of St Peter's, along with statues of St Andrew, St Helen and St Veronica, all of whom have relics associated with them in the basilica. Small models were created by various artists, including one of St Andrew by Bernini. After various discussions with the committee selecting the works, Bernini was then appointed to create St Longinus.[3]

It is likely that the early bozzetto - (a rough model made in terracotta), held in the Fogg Art Museum, and dated to around 1631 was done by Bernini as he continued to work through various concepts for the final statue.[3][4] However, the design used in Harvard bozzetto was not the one used in the final statue; changes to the Baldacchino - the immense four pillared arch built in the centre of the crossing - influenced the Longinus design. "Instead of a figure of the Risen Christ," CD Dickerson writes, the Baldacchino was now to carry a simple globe and cross. Therefore, as Bernini grasped, it no longer made sense for the Longinus to be looking up at the Baldacchino in a worshipful pose."[3]

A later terracotta sketch, held in the Museo di Roma, and rescued during excavation in the 1980s, is closer to the final design. Interesting, the Museo di Roma model has been cut up into various pieces; the places of the cuts (along the right arm, drapery and torso) are the same as the divisions in the marble block on the final sculpture. This indicates that Bernini used the model to calculate how the various blocks of marble could be brought to together to form a physically robust and seemingly complete whole.[3]

Bernini and his assistants are likely to have produced many more different preparatory designs. The German artist Joachim von Sandrart counted 22 small models for St Longinus when he visited Bernini's studio in 1635.[3] Additionally, there are further set of eight drawings in the Düsseldorf Museum Kunstpalast.[5]

The Final Sculpture[edit]

Once the model had been agreed by the relevant parties, Bernini set to work on the sculpture, taking three years to produce the final design. By 1638, the sculpture was in place. Bernini was paid 3,300 Roman scudi for the work, the same as each of the other sculptors producing statues for the niche.[6]


Longinus was the Roman soldier who speared Jesus in the side during the crucifixion. He was alleged to have converted to Christianity after the event, having realised that Jesus was the son of God. Bernini depicts him at the moment of divine communion with God, the holy lance thrust to the side, his arms opened wide to receive the divine light (that in practice would come through the windows of St Peter's). Longinus' armour and military apparatus lay behind him, a symbol of his revocation of his career as a Roman soldier.[7]

Later Engravings[edit]

An engraving by H Frezza, created in 1696, exists in the Wellcome Library, London.[8]


  1. ^ Rudolf Wittkower, Bernini, the Sculptor of the Roman Baroque, 1997 (4th ed.), p.250-1
  2. ^ Evelyn, J.; Bray, W. (1819). Memoirs 1. H. Colburn, and sold by J. and A. Arch. p. 111. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Bernini : sculpting in clay / ed. by C.D. Dickerson, Anthony Sigel, and Ian Wardropper. With contributions by Andrea Bacchi .... - New Haven, Conn. [u.a.] : Yale University Press [u.a], 2012. - XVI, 416 S, p.123-9
  4. ^ Harvard Art Museums's website,, retrieved 17 November 2011.
  5. ^ New Drawings by Bernini for "St. Longinus" and Other Contemporary Works, Ann Sutherland Harris, Master Drawings, Vol. 6, No. 4 (Winter, 1968), pp. 383-391+432-447,
  6. ^ Wittkower, p.250-1
  7. ^ Wittkower, p.56
  8. ^ "Saint Longinus. Engraving by H. Frezza, 1696, after C. Patac - The European Library". Retrieved 22 February 2015.