NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 25 – When Pope Francis came calling at State House, Nairobi, he carried a momentous gift for his host, President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Pope Francis presented President Kenyatta – a Catholic like himself – with a drawing of the project for the Bell Towers of St Peter’s Basilica.
“The accurate drawing, identified as an autograph of Bernini by Brauer and Wittikower in 1931 depicts the project for the facade of the Basilica of St Peter according to the idea of Carlo Maderno, but with variation of two bell towers that departed directly from the ground,” a statement from the Vatican indicated.
The final project by Maderno called for the two bell towers at the two extremities of the facade, but positioned at the height of the base of the drum at the dome.
“The execution of the work was assigned to Bernini who began in 1637. In1641, upon completion of the first bell tower, it was necessary to partially demolish it for reasons of statics.”
The artist was bitterly criticized for having underestimated risks and endangering the entire Basilica. The disappointment was such that he fell ill, also for fear of losing the trust of the Pontiff.
In 1694, under Pope Innocent X Pamphili, a special congregation of cardinals was instituted to face the problem of the facade, and the greatest architects in Rome were called upon to present their proposal.
These projects are for the most part today kept in the Vatican Apostolic Library, under codice from which this present sheet was drawn.
Before arriving at State House to meet President Kenyatta, Pope Francis sent messages of goodwill to the Presidents of Italy, Greece, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, which were in his flight path to Kenya.