It is one of the most fascinating sacred buildings, the center of the Roman Catholic Church, and a destination for millions of people from all over the world – St Peter's Basilica in Rome. Its unique beauty is now set to thrill visitors more than ever before. State-of-the-art LED technology from OSRAM will penetrate the highest domes and bring to light the full beauty of masterpieces which so far have not been visible.

Stepping into this monumental church makes Carlo Bogani’s eyes light up. The OSRAM project manager lets his gaze wander through the huge space, taking in the magnificent nave of the 20,000 square-meter basilica and its large side vaults, the small domes and unique mosaics and altar, and the almost 140-meter-high main dome. He knows that all this will soon light up in unprecedented splendor.

The 58-year-old project manager from Milano, who has worked for OSRAM since 2003, has overseen the lighting project since February 2017 together with a team of engineers at the Vatican and LED experts from OSRAM. He meticulously monitors the progress of the installation, with nothing escaping his scrutiny. “I think it’s a great honor and personal challenge to be allowed to implement a lighting concept of this magnitude in such an overwhelming place as part of the OSRAM team of experts.” Carlo Bogani is aware that the lighting concept for this enormous cathedral has to meet a variety of requirements and expectations. It is about nothing less than bringing out the historically unparalleled atmosphere in a new way and at the same time preserving its uniqueness, perfectly illuminating the variety of architectural and artistic details meeting the high conservation demands of these unique works of art, and not least about ensuring economic efficiency.

Virtual 3D test run

A lighting display for a building of this size needs to be planned thoroughly in advance. Thanks to modern light simulation software, OSRAM experts were able to make calculations as early as in the planning stage, which were then implemented almost identically. More than 100,000 powerful LEDs produced at the Regensburg site combined with electronic control gear were integrated in over 700 tailor-made luminaires. They have a particularly low profile in order to remain unobtrusive. And they emit no UV radiation to protect the works of art.

Heavenly heights

For each area of the cathedral, special solutions were developed. Indirect illumination of the vaulted ceilings with very warm white light will bring out the golden shades in the ceiling particularly well. And the details of the largest mosaic in the world covering around 10,000 square meters will also be highlighted in unprecedented glory. Up to 45,000 daily visitors will experience a very special atmosphere in the basilica thanks to direct, warm white lighting for the floors and walls.

Until then, the installation phase still requires total commitment and, above all, a head for heights. “My team has been working on installing the 780 special luminaires for weeks, laying 20 kilometers of cable and working at heights of up to 137 meters. You can’t get much closer to the angels on Earth,” quips Carlo Bogani.

More light with fewer luminaires

Also, from a sustainability point of view, the result should offer benefits for all to see at the end of January 2019. Because then the digital lighting in St Peter's Basilica will be up to ten times brighter than before, and consume 80 percent less energy. The number of luminaires themselves has also been reduced by 80 percent compared to the previous solution.

After the lighting projects for the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s Rooms, and St Peter’s Square, the masterpiece is now close to official completion.

Carlo Bogani can hardly wait: “In a few weeks, we will present the illuminated St Peter's Basilica together with the Vatican. Depending on the occasion, day or season, we then can even create individual lighting scenarios. Heightening the emotions of visitors even more in what is already a great place – that’s what we’re all working toward.”