A new light at St. Peter’s Basilica

iGuzzini illuminates Michelangelo’s Pietà confirming the relationship between the company and the art world

Pietà di Michelangelo, basilica di San Pietro
Pietà by Michelangelo

The Fabbrica di San Pietro has chosen iGuzzini to renew the lighting of one of the most famous artworks in the world, housed in the Chapel of the Crucifix in St. Peter’s Basilica: Michelangelo’s Pietà. The new lighting system, designed by the Milan-based studio, Rossi Bianchi lighting design, will replace the previous in order to improve visitors’ experience of this renaissance masterpiece thanks to innovative smart solutions based on the recent technological developments in LED lighting.

“All the know-how we have gained since the 1990s when we lit the Bernini and Canova sculptures in the Galleria Borghese has been put at the service of the Fabric of Saint Peter in order to use light to enhance Michelangelo’s Pietà, one of the most evocative works in the history of art,” commented Adolfo Guzzini, President of iGuzzini illuminazione.

Pietà di Michelangelo, befor and after new lighting system

Thanks to the Dali control system, the light fittings are divided into groups that can be switched on separately and adjusted in terms of light intensity to allow the system to create different light scenes, which to clarify their exhibition uses have been named: ‘North Scene – Sculpture Focus’, ‘East Scene – Grazing Light‘, ‘South Scene – Full Light’ and ‘West Scene – Daily’.

Pietà by Michelangelo
Pietà by Michelangelo

In north scene light is focused on the sculpture thanks to Palco spotlights mounted on tracks that run on either side of the pilasters, whereas the illumination for the floor, ceiling and backdrop is reduced to a minimum.  The east scene emits a light beam that illuminates La Pietà with a spectacular beam of light. The incidence angle is clear and there is a sharp contrast with the surrounding shadow. The subdued lighting of the vaults and backdrop creates a frame around the sculpture and vibrant reflections enhance the gleam of its marble to create a powerful visual effect with a strong emotional impact.

Pietà di Michelangelo, north scene
Pietà by Michelangelo, east scene

In the south scene all the luminaires are switched on. This means the sculpture is absolutely dazzling and becomes a source of light in itself. The vaults and floor are lit slightly less intensely as everything is focused on the beam of light that illuminates the sculpture. Compared to the previous scenes, the lighting of the central vault, arches and lateral vaults is more sustained.

Pietà di Michelangelo, south scene
Pietà di Michelangelo, west scene

West scene is designed to enhance the visitor experience at St. Peter’s Basilica where La Pietà is viewed through a glass screen. This is why the lighting is frontal and created by the Palco projectors installed in groups of three on the pillars. The light beams are crisscrossed at symmetrical angles to highlight the sculpture’s plasticity.

Pietà by Michelangelo