The Upper Mosaics of St Peter's
Baptism Chapel

Befitting the theme of the chapel, the mosaic decoration of the dome displays the three types of baptism: water, blood and desire. John the Baptist pours water over a kneeling convert. Martyrs shed their blood as angels bring palms fronds as a crown for those who suffer. In a crowd of people, some spread their hands in a gesture of desire for the sacrament. In the midst of these 'types' is the Eternal Father supported in a Glory of clouds and angels, with the Holy Spirit dove at his heart. On his right, Christ beckons the Apostles to go and baptise all nations. We also see Adam and Eve near the forbidden tree, being expelled from Paradise, illustrating the need for baptism.

The spandrels represent the four corners of the world which have accepted baptism: Europe, Asia, Africa and America. Each section has a woman and a representative animal: Europe with the papal tiara - horse; Asia with a thurible - Camel; Africa - elephant; America - Jaguar.

In the lunettes we can view the Old Testament prefigurations of Baptism: Moses drawing water from a stone, and Noah praying before the rainbow after the flood, a sign of the covenant between God and man. There are also notable early baptisms: Christ baptizing St. Peter, St Peter baptizes the Centurion, St. Philip baptizing the eunuch of Queen Candace, St. Sylvester baptizing the Emperor Constantine.

The original drawings (1710-1745) were by Francesco Trevisani who was one of the leading exponents of late Baroque painting in Rome in the early decades of the 18th century.

The mosaic work was done under the supervision of Pietro Paolo Cristofari. The pendentives were executed from 1724 to 1726. Giuseppe Ottaviani did Europe and America, Liborio Fattori did Africa, and Giovanni Brughi did Asia. The lunettes were executed from 1737 to 1739. Nicolo Onofri and Domenico Gossoni worked on St Peter Baptizing the Centurion; Liborio Fattori and Pietro Cardoni on St Philip Baptizing the Eunuch; Enrico Enuo and Silverio de Lelii on St Sylvester Baptizing Constantine; Alessandro Cocchi and Giovanni Fiani on Christ Baptizing St Peter; Alessandro Cocchi and Bernardino Regoli on Moses Striking Water from the rocks; and Nicolo Onofre and Bernardino Regoli on Noah Praying before the Rainbow.

The mosaics in the vault were done from 1739 to 1746 by Enrico Enuo, Domenico Gossoni, Giovanni Fiani, Liborio Fattori, Pietro Cardoni, Prospero Clori, Nicolo Onofri, and Alessandro Cocchi.

In the tambour of the dome there are four statues of angles that are often overlooked.

Baptism Chapel - The Vestibule Dome

1. Baptism of Desire
2. Baptism of Blood
3. Baptism of Water
4. Eternal Father with the dove of the Holy Spirit between
     Christ the Savior and Adam and Eve expelled from Eden

5. Angel SW
6. Angel NW
7. Angel NE
8. Angel SE

  9. Asia
10. America
11. Africa
12. Europe
13. Moses drawing water from the rock
14. Noah praying before the rainbow of the Covenant
15. St Peter baptizes the Centurion Cornelius
16. St Philip baptizes Queen Candace's eunuch
17. Christ baptizes St Peter
18. St Sylvester baptizes Constantine

John the Baptist-Mosaic detail Dome of the Baptismal Chapel

St John the Baptist
The Baptism of Water

Dome mosaics from 1738 to 1746
From drawings by Francesco Trevisani

Africa - Lunette of the Baptismal Chapel
Baptismal Chapel Spandrel


Women are depicted throughout St Peter's to represent virtue. Here the woman and the elephant also represent Africa as one of the four parts of the world to receive Baptism. 

Drawings by Francesco Trevisani
Mosaic by Liborio Fattori

See also: The Baptismal Font Chapel


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