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Huge pincone in the 'nicchione' in the courtyard of the Vatican Museums - 21k

Court of the Pigna ( Court of the Pine )

    The Court of the Pigna constitutes the northern end of the great renaissance Belvedere Courtyard that extended from the Papal Palaces to Innocent VII's "palazzetto" and was subsequently divided into three parts with the construction of Sixtus V's Library and the Braccio Nuovo of Pius VII.  The present courtyard which takes its name form the enormous bronze pine cone set into the "nicchone", is bounded on the south side by the Braccio Nuovo, on the east by the Chiaromonti Gallery, on the north by Innocent VIII's Palazzetto and on the west by the galleries of the Apostolic Library.

Close up of the Bronze pinecone for which the Court of the Pigna is named. - 16k

     The colossal bronze pine cone was cast in the 1st or 2nd century by Publius Cincius Salvius who left his name on the base.  Prior to being moved to the Court of the Pigna the jumbo pine cone was situated in the Campus Martius, in the area that is still called "Pigna", where it served as a fountain, water gushing from holes in the scales of the cone.  Possibly towards the end of the 8th century it was moved to the entrance hall of the medieval St. Peter's, in the center of the fountain covered by and ornate baldachin, identified in Renaissance drawings.  Finally, in 1608, during the construction of the present basilica, the giant pine cone fountain was dismantled and placed where it is today. 

    I do not know anything about the giant golden orb found in the center of the Court of the Pigna.  I would guess that it is a more modern work, possibly from the 20th century.  In the photo in the lower left the cupola of St. Peter's basilica is visible in the background.

The golden orb with cupula of St. Peters- 13k A close up of the orb in the center of the Court of the Pigna - 19k

Credit for the Information in this tour:

Papafava, Francesco. Ed. Guide to the Vatican Museums and City. Vatican City: Tipografia Vaticana., 1986

Also, I have included information from the exhibits at the Vatican Museum and notes from the lecture of Professor B. Nucci (University of Maryland University College - European Division)

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