Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007, 231 pages
Wonders of the World Series
A small book on a massive subject, St. Peter’s offers a spirited account of the grandest basilica in the world. Adopting a erudite but conversational tone, Miller promises to tell the story of a “titanically ambitious architectural project and try to evaluate the result [and] to examine the ways in which St. Peter’s has been used to express the special relationship between imperial and papal authority and how it has actually worked as a place of worship, pilgrimage, assembly and tourism at various points in history.” In grappling with his vast subject Miller has appropriately made use of many modes: cultural and political history, architectural criticism, travel writing and on-site reportage.
Although St. Peter’s is not a travel book—and does not offer an exhaustive or systematic description of the church—Miller does an excellent job evoking the contours of the church, peeling back the layers of history and integrating a vast array of source material to bring the complex space of St. Peter’s into sharp focus. The book also gives some helpful advice for visitors.
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