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Sixtus V and the Scala Santa

Christopher L. C. Ewart Witcombe
Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians
Vol. 44, No. 4 (Dec., 1985), pp. 368-379
DOI: 10.2307/990114
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/990114
Page Count: 12
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Sixtus V and the Scala Santa
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Abstract

Soon after his election as Pope in 1585, Sixtus V initiated the demolition of the ruinous Patriarchium Lateranense in order to build in its place the present Lateran Palace. Although much of the old palace was destroyed, the Chapel of St. Laurence, known as the Sancta Sanctorum, was preserved intact, and the Holy Stairs (the Scala Santa) were moved to a new location before it. It is argued in this study, using both published and unpublished documents and the visual evidence of frescoes depicting the Scala Santa in the Vatican Library, that the original project called for a simpler plan than that finally built, comprising only the Sancta Sanctorum, the Holy Stairs, and the two original lateral stairways from the Patriarchium Lateranense. In late 1587, it would appear, in order to accommodate Sixtus V's decision to upgrade the status of the sanctuary, this plan was enlarged to include two large rooms with chapels either side of the Sancta Sanctorum, and two additional lateral stairways. A chronology for the project is established and the dates for the decoration of the structure clarified.

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