New Lighting System for St. Peter’s Basilica Taking Shape

St. Peter’s Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica

Tests for the new OSRAM LED system planned for St. Peter’s Basilica show that the illumination level of the domes is 10 times brighter than before. The new indirect lighting system is also poised to eliminate drop shadows on the circular inscription, which is carved into the wall below the cornices of the basilica. The new lighting system also will lower energy usage by about 85 percent.

A total of 700 custom-made luminaires with more than 100,000 LEDs will illuminate the building, “bathing individual works of art and statues at the Basilica in dazzling light,” says Olaf Berlien, CEO of OSRAM Licht AG. Mons. Rafael De La Serrana Villalobos, director department technical services of the Governorate of the Vatican State, adds: “During the first tests, we could clearly see details of artwork in the domes that we could only guess at in the past.”

St. Peter’s Basilica, a church that can hold up to 20,000 people, is about 190 meters long. The three naves are each 58 meters wide. The maximum height of the vault in the nave is nearly 46 meters, and the dome rises approximately 136 meters to the top of the cross. The interior rooms decorated with large mosaics serve as valuable jewelry boxes for some of the world’s most famous artwork, including the Baldachin by Bernini and the Pietà statue by Michelangelo.

The lighting can be altered to suit the needs of the particular occasion. For television broadcasts from St. Peter’s Basilica, the altar area will be lighted very brightly. The new system accentuates the features of the materials used in the building and the architecture itself. In the process, the plasticity of the sculptures and marble surfaces, as well as the architecture itself, is highlighted. The lighting project is scheduled to be completed by Christmas 2018.