More Christian Allegory in The Dark Knight Rises: Peter Foley and Sampietrini

There was a thought-provoking article by Catholic Veritas titled The Dark Knight Rises: Sacred Art. Most of the main characters, locations, and themes were related to similar Christian names, places, and themes, but one character left unexplored was Peter Foley, the deputy police commissioner who had a rather large role in the film, considering the number of other leading cast members.

I noticed, in watching the movie a second time, a certain scene where police are martyred by the main protagonist (to the words of "Shoot them. Shoot them all."), and the camera moves to a closeup of one of the police officers (Peter Foley), laying murdered in the street, in his dress attire.

Sampietrini Officer killed in the Dark Knight Rises

An observant person would notice a few things about this scene:

  • Like Peter the Apostle (and first Pope), this particular officer (Deputy Commissioner Peter Foley) had earlier denied the call by commissioner Gordon to come out of hiding for fear of the angry mobs that were wont to kill people in positions of authority (including the police).
  • Foley, who had seemed a coward when he was in hiding while his compatriots were hopelessly imprisoned in the city sewers, was the first to step forward into the battle to defend the city, and all the other police officers followed his lead.
  • The stone pavement underneath the Foley is made up of small, square stones—hearkening to the sampietrini, found throughout ancient Rome. (More on this later).

Like C.S. Lewis, it seems that Christopher Nolan sometimes hits his audience with an allegorical 2x4 sometimes! That officer matches very well the profile of the Apostle Peter—and Christopher Nolan seems to make his allegorical statement even more blindingly obvious through the subtler things. In this case, the pavement.

Sampietrini – 'Little Peters'

Jeff Geerling standing on Sanpietrini pavers outside of St. Peter's square
Yours truly, trying to make a happy face just outside St. Peter's square (Rome, Italy).

When my wife and I visited Roma after we were married, our tour guide gave us a short history lesson about the distinctive pavement found throughout the streets and sidewalks of most of Rome. Instead of using concrete, asphalt, or any other kind of pavers, Rome uses thousands of small squares of volcanic stone, nicknamed 'sampietrini'.

The reason for this name is that the stones were originally chosen by Pope Sixtus V as the pavement for St. Peter's Square (in the Vatican), and eventually for most of Rome, Italy. St. Peter's square is built around an egyptian Obelisk that was originally placed in Rome by the Emporer Caligula in 37 A.D., and was in a Roman circus. It just so happens that this particular circus was the one in which Peter the Apsostle was matryed—thus, the Church built the magnificent namesake basilica in that location.

The stones received the nickname sampietrini—'little St. Peters'.

So, is it simply coincidence that the 'martyered' police officer (who denied the police force and later became its de facto leader in its great battle) died in a square paved with stones hearkening to the sampietrini—or is Nolan really that deep with his allegory? Looks like we'll have to go all Inception on this thought and see how many more layers Nolan has placed in this movie!