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Title: Cortile del Belvedere

Location: Vatican Palace, Rome

Date: Italian Renaissance, 1508

Material: photography

Description: Courtyard of Vatican Museums with bronze pineapple from quadriporticus of Constantinian basilica

Christian Pineapple

The presence of the pine cone in Christian iconography is visible in the decorative aspects of the Roman Catholic Church. One of the most populated location for the icon is in the Vatican and Saint Peters Basilica, as it is displayed prominently on the Pope’s staff, candelabras, lamps, and standing sculpture. In the exedra of the Court of the Pigna in the Vatican stands a gargantuan bronze pine cone from the 1st century AD designed by Publius Cincius Salvius whose name is inscribed at its base1.

In Christian symbolism the pine cone is associated with the Tree of Life, an icon of regeneration and fertility. St. Ambrose saw the image of the tree as a “never-ending continuance of nature”, experiencing seasonal cycles but remaining resilient to change2. For this reason the pine cone was associated with eternity. Similar to other pagan icons appropriated in the transition to a centralized Christian authority, the pine cone’s imagery is derived from the sexual and essentially reproductive aspects of the pagan god Dionysos.

1 Henry, John. Ancient Rome in 1885. Edinburgh: General Books, 2009. 439.

2 de Cleene, Marcel, and Marie Claire Lejeune. Compendium of symbolic and ritual plants in Europe. London: Mens & Cultuur Uitgevers n.v., 2002. 552.

Coming soon

  • The Corset


My name is Brienne. While pursuing a Masters in Classics, I have also been attracted to the curation of collections. This site is a place to study the objects not often exhibited on museum walls. Taken out of storage these objects are presented afresh.