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It Was the Roof

In response to:

On Statues from the February 1, 1996 issue

To the Editors:

I am sure that Iam not the first to make the following observation but it takes some time for the Review to percolate down to us here in Australia.

In his very interesting article on statues [NYR, February 1] James Fenton makes one unfortunate error, stating that Bernini destroyed the bronze doors of the Pantheon for the baldacchino of St. Peter’s. This famous act of vandalism by Urban VIII inspired the famous pasquinade:Quod non fecerunt barbari fecerunt Barberini. The antique doors are, however, still to be seen in position, albeit many times repaired and adjusted. What Urban took was the bronze roof of the portico of the Pantheon, which was bad enough.

Incidentally, another ancient set of bronze doors may also still be seen in Rome, but moved from their original building. The doors of the fourth-century Senate house in the Forum now grace the basilica of S. Giovanni in Laterano.

Given their size and attractiveness to vandals, it is rather amazing that two such sets of bronze doors survive in Rome, because they were attached to churches. The bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius is reputed to have survived being melted down only because it was taken to represent Constantine.

Ronald T. Ridley
Department of History
The University of Melbourne
Parkville, Australia

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