Artibus et Historiae no. 23 (XII)

1991, ISSN 0391-9064

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MARGARET FINCH - Petrine Landmarks in Two Predella Panels by Jacopo di Cione

Two panels from Jacopo's polyptych of the Coronation of the Virgin depict Roman landmarks associated with the story of the crucifixion of St. Peter. The story involves tapered tombs, or metae, near two city gates on different sides of town. One gate was on the road to St. Peter's basilica and the other on the way to St. Paul's Outside the Walls. Two metae were near the Castel Sant'Angelo on the way to St. Peter's. Documentation comes from twelfth-century texts, the Ordo Romanus and the Mirabilia Urbis Romae, which call one tomb the "Sepulcher of Romulus." The latter text states that Peter was crucified nearby.

Paired city gates belong to the story. In the northwest part of Rome, the Porta Collina was associated with the crucifixion. At a southerly gate on the way to St. Paul's, according to tradition, Peter and Paul parted from each other before their martyrdoms. A pyramid nearby, called Gaius Cestius, which still exists, was known in the Middle Ages as the "Sepulcher of St. Remus." On this road, the Via Ostiense, Paul was martyred.

In medieval lore, Romulus and Remus, the founders of ancient Rome, were identified with Peter and Paul, the fathers of Christian Rome. It was said that the saints were martyred where Romulus and Remus were buried. Moreover, a well-known sentence quoted by Eusebius mentions "trophies" of Peter and Paul. The sentence seems to refer to a road in the vicinity of the Vatican called "Via Triumphalis." Jacopo's panels suggest that gates associated with the saints' victories over death were interpreted by him as triumphal arches.

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