Treasures of the Church- Holy Sites

San pietro in ciel d'oro

San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro (Italian for "Saint Peter's in the Golden Sky") is a Roman Catholic basilica of the Augustinians in Pavia, Italy. Pope Benedict XVI visited here in April of 2007. The earliest news that we have of this Basilica dates to the year 604 AD. The building is not the original one. It follows another that was in early-Christian style, with simple columns and a wooden ceiling. The current Basilica, in Romanic-Lombard form, dates to the twelfth century. It was consecrated by Pope Innocent II in 1132. It inherited the name of “ciel d’oro” (golden sky) because the wooden ceiling of the early-Christian church was decorated with golden-colored paint. The exterior is simply of brick. The basilica is mentioned by Dante, Petrarca and Boccaccio.

The Basilica has three naves. At the end of the right nave, the floor of the apse shows the remains of a mosaic of the twelfth century. In the left nave, which is still the original construction, there are traces of frescoes from the fifteenth and sixteenth century. The majestic vault of the central nave was rebuilt in 1487 by the architect Giacomo Da Candia of Pavia.

The church is the resting place for the remains of St. Augustine of Hippo. The presbytery is dominated by the marble Ark of St Augustine, raised on a crypt. This is a masterpiece of Lombard sculpture of the fourteenth century. It is decorated with 95 statues. In 1327 Pope John XXII issued the papal bull Veneranda Santorum Patrum, in which he appointed the Augustinians guardians of the tomb of St. Augustine, which was remade in 1362 and elaborately carved with scenes from St. Augustine’s life. These include St. Augustine’s conversion, his baptism, the miracles after his death, and the transfer of his relics to Pavia.

There is also a crypt in which is buried Severino Boezio. The soul of this great consul, senator, philosopher, is mentioned by Dante in the tenth canto of “il Paradiso.” To the right of the crypt lies the body of Liutprando, king of the Longbards. He was rendered for ever meritorious for the splendor that he assured this Basilica by transferring holy relics of St. Augustine in the year 724 from Sardinia. These relics, discovered in the crypt in 1695, now lie in a silver urn at the foot of the marble Ark.

The sacristy of the Basilica is impressive. With a ribbed vault, it is rich in “grotesque” decorations, attributed to the sixteenth century. There is also a seventeenth century canvas portraying St Augustine conversing with St. Jerome. The two marble altars are by the sculptor Giovanni Scapolla, native of Pavia. One is dedicated to St. Rita, dating to 1940. The other, dedicated to the Sacred Heart, dates to 1963.


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