On April 18, 1506, Pope Julius II della Rovere laid the first stone. Bramante was the first architect. St Peter's Factory is an institution of the Roman Catholic Church responsible for the conservation and maintenance of St. Peter's Basilica, the heart of Christianity, which over the centuries has never ceased to fulfill its function, that is, protecting the sancta sanctorum from worldly decay and preserving the eternal from the ravages of time. Master craftsmen work daily and silently in this casket of masterpieces of art and faith. Their work is increasingly in step with new technologies and open to comparison with modern culture.
The St Peter's Factory has never ceased to fulfill its function for centuries, that is, protecting the sancta sanctorum from worldly decay and preserving the eternal from the ravages of time
The School of Arts and Crafts of the St Peter's Factory, promoted in collaboration with the Fratelli Tutti Foundation, has opened its doors to an international group of twenty young people, twelve males and eight females, from Italy, Peru, Germany, and Belarus. They will be the future stonecutters, marble workers, masons, plasterers, decorators, and carpenters
For six months, they will live at the ‘Villa Aurelia’ residence of the Dehonians, not far from the Vatican’s Palazzo della Canonica, where a coat of arms with a tiara and crossed keys certifies the headquarters of the Fabric. Over a hundred St. Peter masters work here every day on ordinary and extraordinary maintenance, and the verification of environmental, static, and microclimatic control systems.
The new school intends to perpetuate the glory of the Pontifical Studio of the Arts, officially opened at the end of the 18th century. Its construction was covered by the media with an eye towards the future generations. As is tradition, the school is free of charge and offers lectures, seminars, and guided tours. Fratelli Tutti Foundation General Secretary and School Director Father Francesco Occhetta welcomes this breath of fresh air: “We are restoring an ancient tradition, born in the 18th century, when the workers of the Basilica would pass on their knowledge to young people. This is practical hands-on knowledge that will be passed on to the next generations, ancient crafts adapted to new technologies. Attending the School is also an opportunity to build an educational community in the spirit of brotherhood and all-around human growth.”
It is a far-flung and ambitious project reminiscent of Michelangelo’s challenge to Brunelleschi's dome in Florence, immortalized by these famous words: “I go to Rome to build your sister, greater but not more beautiful.” It is an unparalleled experience to walk in the embrace of Bernini's colonnade, on the ground trodden by saints, popes, and sovereigns.
Thus joining in the historical tradition of some of the most prestigious workshops, such as the Dombauhütte of the grandiose Cologne Cathedral, the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo in Milan, and the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. These are places that can never shut down, from which popular sayings arise such as “Longh cume la fabrica del domm,” referring to lengthy and tiring operations, breeding grounds of group efforts and fictional materials such as in Ken Follet’s The Pillars of the Earth.
The historical archives of the St Peter's Factory hold records of work done by numerous women—many of them widows of the workshop’s artisans—as master masons, cart drivers, pozzolan workers, blacksmiths, and wood and semi-precious stone carvers
As a matter of fact, modern chronicles can add the role of women to the most illustrious pages of the history of art, manufacturing, and craftsmanship, which were not isolated occurrences since the very beginning. The historical archives of the St Peter's Factory hold records of work done by women—many of them widows of the workshop’s artisans—as master masons, cart drivers, pozzolan workers, blacksmiths, and wood and semi-precious stone carvers, who were given equal respect and pay as their male colleagues.
In conclusion, the eternal St Peter's Factory tells us that gender equality has existed since at least the 16th century, in the artisan workshops that sprang up under the shadow of St. Peter’s Dome, thanks to women who set an example with their resourcefulness and entrepreneurial spirit.
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