Location in St Peter's


The Filarete Door
by Antonio Averuline known as Filarete, 1445

Square & Area

Vatican City

Colonnade Saints
Floorplan #2
The History
Related Items
Holy Door
Portico Ceiling






Select photos from the door or the list below.

1. Paul V Pont Max
2. Restavravit A Pontif XV
3. Christ - Salvator Mundi
4. Mary - Ave Gratia Plena
5. Portrait of Filarete
6. The departure of emperor John Paleologus from Constantinople
7. The emperor encounters the pope at Ferrara
8. A session of the Council of Florence
9. The Greek delegation returns to the East
10. St Paul
11. St Peter consigns the Keys to Eugenius IV
12. Portrait of Maffeo Vegio
13. The cavalcade to Castel Sant'Angelo (1433)
14. The coronation of the emperor Sigismund
15. Portrait of Alvise Trevisan
16. The abbot Andrea receives in Florence the decree of Union
17. The arrival in Rome of the Jacobite delegation (1441)
18. Dionysius and the pirates
19. The beheading of St Paul
20. Cadmus and the dragon
21. The martyrdom of St Peter
22. Mythological scenes with Deucalion and Pirra
23. Mythological scenes with the Rape of Europa
24. Mythological scenes with Curtius
25. An Eagle of Paul V

The Crucifixion of St Peter


The beheading of St Paul







The Inside of the Filarete Door
The Inside lower section of the Filarete Door
Filarete and Assistants - Lower Right Inside of Door
Filarete and Assistants - Left Side
Filarete and Assistants - Right Side

From: 'St. Peter's - Guide to Basilica and Square'
The central door is the oldest. Pope Eugene IV commissioned the Florentine, Antonio Averulino, known as Filarete (1400-1469) to make the two bronze imposts which he completed in 1445. The six panels show: Jesus the Savior and Mary enthroned, the two centers of Christian piety, then as now; St. Paul with the sword, the weapon with which he was beheaded and whose blade is double-edged like God's words, and St. Peter, who is giving the keys to the kneeling Pope Eugene IV, are the two pillars of the Church of Rome. The two lowest panels show St. Paul sentenced by Nero and the martyrdom of St. Paul, who kneels as, blindfold, he the stroke of the sword that will take his life, and the martyrdom of St. Peter, dragged to the Vatican Hill where he is crucified. St. Paul then appears to Plautilla, to give her back the veil she had lent him to blindfold his eyes. The bas-reliefs between the framed panels show scenes from the pontificate of Eugene IV, and representatives at the Council of Ferrara-Florence, summoned in 1438 to reunite the Churches of the East and of the West.

From 'St. Peter's Basilica - A Virtual Tour' by Our Sunday Visitor
Pope Paul V used the bronze door of the Old Basilica, commissioned to Antonio Averulino, also known as Filarete by Pope Eugene IV, accomplished already in 1455 by the Florentine workshop. It appears to be bound to the medieval world, with Byzantine influences, though chronologically a part of the Renaissance.

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.

From: 'Guide to Saint Peter's'
This is truly an historical door, as it was part of the old basilica. It was made by the Florentine artist Antonio Averulino known as Filarete (1400-1469) in the year 1455. The rich and elegant workmanship is a hymn to Christ, the Virgin Mary and to the apostles Peter and Paul. At the top are the Savior enthroned, giving a blessing, and the Virgin Mary, humble and reverent. This was one of the most widely used themes in the Middle Ages: the Church as a family. Where there is the Father, there must also be the Mother, otherwise it would be cold and heartless.

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 doors were made .. by command of Eugenius IV for Old St Peter's, the work occupying the artist for twelve years, from 1433 to 1445. Eugenius was the pope who presided over the famous Council of Florence in 1439 which sought to bring about the union of the churches in the face of the Turkish threat. The Emperor John Palaeologos came to it with the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, also representatives of many of the other oriental churches, including - to everyone's astonishment - some Ethiopian monks.

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.

Filarete's doors, although technically they are often compared unfavorably with Lorenzo Ghilberti's bronzes, they are textbook examples of how to incorporate a politico-theological argument into the design of a public monument.

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.



Restored in the fifteenth year of Paul V's pontificate An eagle of Paul V on the lower panel Mythological scenes with Curtius The Rape of Europa Mythological scenes with Deucalion and Pirra The Martyrdom of St Peter Cadmus and the Dragon The Beheading of St Paul Dionysius and the pirates The arrival in Rome of the Jacobite delegation (1441) The abbot Andrea receives in Florence the decree of Union Portrait of Alvise Trevisan The Coronation of the Emperor Sigismund The Cavalcade to Castel Sant'Angelo at the Coronation of Sigismund Portrait of Maffeo Vegio St Peter consigns the Keys to Eugenius IV St Paul The Greek delegation returns to the East A session of the Council of Florence The emperor John Paleologus encounters the Pope at Ferrara The departure of emperor John Paleologus from Constantinople Portrait of Filarete Mary - Ave Gratia Plena Christ - Salvator Mundi Pope Paul V Pontifex Maximus Restored in the Fifteenth Year of Paul V's Pontificate