Monument to Pope Innocent VIII


This is one of the few monuments from the Old Basilica that has survived to this day. Originally it was under the triumphal arch. It was designed by Antonio Pollaiolo (1431-1498) the great bronze sculptor. The Pope (1484-1492) is shown surrounded by the four cardinal Virtues (Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance) and in the lunette above are the theological Virtues (Faith, Hope and Charity). The pope is seated, and in his left hand holds the spear that pierced Jesus' side, one of the most venerated relics in the basilica. This lance, or spear, jealously guarded by the early Christians was later given to the crusaders so that it could be brought to Rome. It was captured by the Saracens and placed in the religious treasure of Constantinople. Later, it was surprisingly offered to Pope Innocent VIII in 1492 by the Turkish sultan Bayazet, son of Mohammed II under the condition that the Pope would detain the sultan's brother, who was threatening his power. The pope agreed, (as did the brother who was quite happy to stay in Rome) and received the lance.

Beneath the monument the Pope is depicted as laying in serene, peaceful death in a sarcophagus.

It is interesting to note that notwithstanding some corrections made to the black stone at the base of the monument, there is still an error. It reads that America was discovered during the pontificate of Innocent VIII, the fact is that Columbus set sail from Europe eight days after the pope died.