Etruscan mythology, £8.99
Diameter: 56.500 mm
George III Collection
CM George III, Papal Medals AE III 6
Room 46: Europe 1400-1800
Cast bronze medal of Pope Julius II commemorating the building of St Peter's
Rome, Italy, AD 1506
Rebuilding the centre of Christendom
Although traditionally attributed to the leading Renaissance goldsmith Caradosso (about 1452-1526/7), this medal may in fact be the work of the famous architect Donato Bramante (1444-1514). Bramante's architectural skills were fostered during his time as principal architect to Ludovico Sforza, duke of Milan, before arriving in Rome in 1499 to work for Pope Julius II.
Bramante's principal task as papal architect was the supervision of the reconstruction of the basilica of St Peter's. Demolition of the old Byzantine building had begun in the previous century, but little new building had taken place. Bramante now proposed a centrally planned church surmounted by an enormous dome, which is depicted on the reverse of this medal. He had made a self-portrait medal, probably in the previous year, which also included his project for St Peter's, and it is therefore likely that he also made or at least designed this piece, examples of which were buried in the foundations of the new basilica. St Peter's was not completed until the seventeenth century, by which time little remained of Bramante's original plan.
G.F. Hill, A corpus of Italian medals of (London, Trustees of the British Museum, 1930)