The Inside of the Filarete Door
From: 'St. Peter's - Guide to Basilica and Square'
'St. Peter's Basilica - A Virtual Tour' by Our
Among the four major compartments, Christ and the Virgin are represented in the upper part; St. Peter with Pope Eugene IV, kneeling before him, and St. Paul wielding a sword are represented in the center; the martyrdom of the two apostles with many details and interesting representations of ancient Rome, in the lower part. These compartments are separated by four horizontal bas-relief segments with the most important events of Eugene IV's papacy: episodes of the Council of Florence of 1438 for the decree of the union of the Greek and Roman churches, proclaimed by Eugene IV, and the arrival in Rome and the coronation of emperor Sigismund.
Vertical segments run around the entire door with garlands of flowers and leaves which are wound in spirals. In these decorations, called "girali (plant volutes)," Filarete inserts episodes taken from Aesop's fables, from the Metamorphosis of Ovid and from the Ecoglues of Horace. They are mainly decorative by nature.
On the lower back of the door, Filarete made a portrait of himself among his own disciples. Starting from the left, a knight on a donkey, and a figure on his right. In the central part, some of Filarete's assistants. Continuing to the right, Filarete himself holding a pair of compasses. At the right end of the scene, a knight on a dromedary. All of the figures bear their own name. The words "ANTONIUS ET DISCIPULI MEI" are shown on the two sides of Filarete. All the other figures bear their own name, from AGNOLUS to VARRUS.
Above the door a relief created by Bernini and his assistants represents the episode "Pasce Meas Oves," where Christ gives the Apostles the flock of the faithful.
'Guide to Saint Peter's'
In the center are the impressive standing figures of Peter and Paul, the two great pillars of the Roman Church. Paul holds a sword, symbol not only of his martyrdom, but of that double-edged blade, the word of God. At his feet is an elegant vase of flowers. Peter is the keeper of the keys. He is depicted as holding the Gospel in one hand and giving the keys over to the kneeling Pope Eugenius IV who had commissioned this door.
The last two panels show the Apostles condemned to death by Nero seated on his throne. Peter is being forcibly led to the Vatican hill where he would be crucified upside down. Paul, on the other hand was a Roman citizen, and met a less cruel death. He was made to kneel, he was blindfolded and he was beheaded with a single stroke of a sword. We see Paul, in the middle of the same panel as he emerges from a cloud to return the veil to Plautilla: the girl had given it to him to cover his eyes before he was executed.
From: 'The Companion
Guide to Rome' by Georgina Masson
The Ethiopian monks,
wearing turbans and long flowing robes, but with recognizably African
features, are seen kneeling before Eugenius and making a visit to Rome,
in the relief under the figures of St Peter and Pope Eugenius on the right
of the door.
We enter the basilica, by the doors to the right of the central ones and should start by looking at the back of those central ones, where, low down on the right one, we will find Filarete's 'signature'. The central seven figures are easily recognizable as Filarete and his assistants executing what seems to be a joyous dance with the tools of their profession in their hands (Filarete is the leader on the right). There is some doubt as to the interpretation of the somewhat shaggy dog-Latin inscription above them, as it is full of mistakes and colloquialisms, but it is generally accepted to mean that while others go the money and credit for the work, Filarete at least had the fun of it. Even more cryptic are the two figures at either end, one seated on an ass and the other on a camel, playing the pipes; so far no scholar has been able to arrive at an explanation of their significance.
The Byzantine Empire made a comeback around 1300 under the new ruling house of the Palaeologues. Emperor John VIII appealed for support against the Turks. Greek delegates were dispatched to the Church Council at Basel, the meetings are depicted on the upper right hand panel of the door. The hat of the man on the throne is important because it was only worn by the Palaeologan emperor and unknown until the 1430s tour and appeal for aid, it appears frequently from then on in Renaissance art to designate someone as the Byzantine emperor, or a Roman emperor of the past in modern dress.
The scene showing the eastern emperors blessing given to theological negotiations in Basel is exhibited as one of Pope Eugenius' trophies of achievement. On the left hand door, Eugenius himself is depicted re-ordaining the Patriarch of Byzantium. The entire work is in fact a manifesto for the reunification of the antique empire under the patronage of the papacy.