Art, Travel & Life in Italy & Europe

San Pietro in Montorio and Bramante’s Tempietto

Sometimes, the hunt for perfection makes it necessary to hike uphill. This is the case with Bramante’s Tempietto, which you’ll forgive me if I call a “jewel” of Renaissance architecture, for its size and perfection is much like a little, domed jewel box.

The late 15th-century church of San Pietro in Montorio in Rome was built over top of an earlier one. It was home to Raphael’s Transfiguration (Vatican) over the high altar until the early 19th c. It contains an altarpiece by Antoniazzo Romano, a sculpture by Bernini and some important late Mannerist works.  Marcia Hall suggests that the Del Monte chapel by Vasari and Ammananti is the first counter-reformation work in Rome (except for Michelangelo’s Pauline Chapel in the Vatican; p. 174).

On my very first trip to Rome, I made the pilgrimage up to this church mainly to see what is next to it: the Tempietto. I have since been back numerous times, and it always feels like a delicious discovery.

The tiny, perfect, and beautiful Tempietto by Bramante is accessed through a door at the right of the church (when open) or viewed through a gate outside to the right. The building is actually in the courtyard of the adjacent Spanish Academy, and you’ll usually see it photographed framed by the arch of the little portico in front of it.

Bramante’s Tempietto

The church was built on the spot where Peter was thought to have been martyred and it represents one of the only executed plans for a circular church in the Renaissance, despite many artists’ obsession with this form. The interior is luminous and, of course, tiny. Bernini designed the crypt into which you can see via stairs at the back.

To get a sense of perspective, I photographed Tommaso sitting between two columns. This building is intended to be extremely accessible and easy to understand because it’s based on 15th-century theories of circles and proportions in perfect spaces that were believed to be intrinsically connected to the proportions of man. So, Tommaso in there makes sense.

Small, antiquizing details are found on the exterior of the building, which you can get right up into and explore. Head on up the hill – it’s extremely likely that you’ll have this tiny piece of Renaissance architecture all to yourself.

Location: via Garibaldi, Trastevere, Rome.

Open 7.30-12; 16-18. The Tempietto is generally acessible during these hours, closed monday. The entrance gates are to the right of the church. The door to the Tempietto itself is rarely open.

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By: arttrav

Alexandra Korey aka ArtTrav is a Florence-based art historian and arts marketing consultant.

  • Peter Norwood

    I’ve long thought this a beautiful object and did a fairly
    accurate model in rapid prototyping.

    If you have any interest.

  • arttrav

    That is FABULOUS, Peter. I’ve been a supporter of 3D printing and the maker movement for a while so love to see this (take a look at

  • Peter Norwood

    Maketank is neat and with Google translation software its easy to interact.
    If you add in Etsy it’s possible to get a fantastic array of art without Walmart.

  • arttrav

    Hi Peter
    Maketank is also all in english :) Didn’t you see the language switcher at the top?
    The products are all by italian makers, with digital technologies. I just happen to know the owners, and I used to write the (bilingual) blog too. Indeed, you can get a lot of neat artisan things these days -luckily here in Italy we don’t have Walmart at all :D

  • Peter Norwood

    On the other hand if you need fish oil caps or a battery for your cars Walmart has the best prices.

    I’ll bet you have Ikea and something like Walmart.

  • arttrav

    Ha ha, yes, walmart can be really great sometimes (in the states). We do have Ikea, but nothing quite like walmart with a bit of everything. Stores are so much more specialized here!
    Feel free to take a look around the blog, you will find lots of comments about Italian living, as well as art – enjoy!

  • Peter Norwood

    I really like your site and love classical art.

    This is me BTW

    Artemisia Gentileschi is amazing I hope she did the same to Agostino Tassi

  • Peter Norwood

    Are there any other less well known chapels that you think would be interesting from an rapid prototyping point of view.

    I’ve admired Bramantes Tempietto since I was in school.

    Doric columns are much the easiest!

  • arttrav

    For sure: Alberti’s Tempietto del santo sepolcro!!!

  • Peter Norwood

    Interesting sculptural chapel one might say tomb.
    I have never seen it and the photos are beautiful.

    First problem is for “white on white” fused nylon, the black decorative designs in the white panels. I could exaggerate the panels in 3d to make it visible.

    It is possible to do color but I have never done it before.
    I would have to give it a base, part of the existing floor.
    The swirling dome on top reminds me of the swirling columns on the alter in St Peters.
    Thank you

  • Peter Norwood

    What do you think the small dome and structure on top of the tomb symbolize.

    Could it be a place for the soul or a symbol of the Holy Ghost?

    Perhaps its a place for the soul of the deceased to watch the world.

  • arttrav

    Your guess is as good as mine :D

  • Peter Norwood

    Re: Rucellai Chapel, What do you think the chances are that the little dome

    was added after the base design of the tomb.

    1 because the type of column is Doric not Corinthian and 2 its discordant with the design in that it is not as finished or polished a piece.

  • arttrav

    Hi Peter
    I’m not an expert on this work, but I don’t think that Alberti built in it many phases because it’s small and very specifically designed after a historical model… to really know you’d need to find an architect who has worked on it…

  • Peter Norwood

    I made an autocad model of the Santo Sepolcro from the pictures on your site over the weekend. I’d like to send you a jpg to see what you think but don’t know how to do that here.

  • arttrav

    sure, email info at!