Eleven Pieces Of Ancient Egyptian Artwork On The Terrace Of The Nicchione Overlooking The Pinecone Courtyard

The current Pinecone Courtyard takes its name from the colossal bronze Pigna (pinecone) sculpture.

Famously described by Dante in his Inferno, this sculpture was likely discovered in the Middle Ages at a sanctuary dedicated to the Egyptian gods Isis and Serapis at the Campus Martius in Rome. Though initially placed in the atrium of the old St. Peter’s Basilica, together with the two bronze peacocks of Hadrian, the Pigna was later relocated in 1608 and positioned as the crowning piece for the double staircase of the Nicchione — the central Niche of the Vatican courtyard— again, flanked by the two peacock sculptures.

The Pinecone Courtyard was part of the grand construction of the Belvedere Courtyard, designed by Bramante and commissioned by Pope Julius II (della Rovere, 1503-1513) soon after his accession to the throne of Peter. This large architectural project was started right after 1504, but was realized over the course of many decades.