Located in the Transept of Saint Peter’s Basilica, there are four niches each of which contain a statue. Out of these four statues Bernini was only responsible for one, St. Longinus, the others were the work of his students. These colossal statues are almost 10m high, and seem as if they are about to come out of the niche itself. St. Longinus was a Roman soldier who was skeptical of Christ. He was responsible for piercing the side of Jesus with a spear during his crucifixion. The blood from Christ cured Longinus’ blindness, and it was then that he realized that Christ truly is the son of God.
Bernini had redesigned the sculpture of St. Longinus 22 times with clay models before the design was finally chosen. The sculpture depicts St. Longinus after his realization, his arm thrust out holding a the spear he had pierced Christ with. In order for him to achieve such a dramatic gesture he had to add pieces of marble which are hidden by the Saint’s robe. His right leg is standing on the edge of the pedestal and his cloak has fallen back; as the viewer you feel as if you are right in the action. You can see the strain in his muscles as he turns to look toward the alter. This signifies his realization and belief in Christ as well as draws the viewers’ attention toward the alter.
Bernini was mindful of how the statue would be seen throughout the basilica. He wanted it to be seen. In order to accomplish this he extended the Saints’ arm and foot to peek out of the niche. The statue was also left unpolished in order to catch the light.