Redefining Papal Tombs: Pope Alexander VII Chigi as Patron

Hannah Ridenour

Bernini, "Bust of Pope Alexander VII Chigi," ca. 1660, Rome, Galleria Borghese (source -

Fig. 17. Bernini, “Bust of Pope Alexander VII Chigi,” ca. 1660, Rome, Galleria Borghese (source –

When Pope Urban VIII Barberini died in 1644, Bernini also fell from papal favoritism, in part because of the disastrous results of his bell towers for the façade of St. Peter’s, and in part because of the new pope’s, Innocent X’s (r. 1644-1655), disapproval of Barberini preferences.  The pope to follow him, however, would be almost as prolific of a patron to Bernini as Urban had been.  Pope Alexander VII Chigi (r. 1655-1667) commissioned from him the Cathedra Petri (the Chair of St. Peter), the Colonnade encircling St. Peter’s Square, and the Ponte Sant’Angelo, as well a number of personal projects and his tomb.[1]  He was the last great patron of Bernini, who was sixty-nine years old when Alexander died.  He entrusted Bernini with the execution of his tomb (fig. 2), having died before the final design was agreed upon.

Bernini, "Tomb of Alexander VII Chigi," ca. 1671-1678, Vatican, St. Peter's Basilica

Fig. 2. Bernini, “Tomb of Alexander VII Chigi,” ca. 1671-1678, Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica (source –


[1] Bernini and the Birth of Baroque Portrait Sculpture, 146.