St. Peter's Square


May 28, 2022

St. Peter's Square (Italian: Piazza San Pietro) is a square built right in front of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. The square borders the Borgo-Rione district of the city of Rome to the east and can accommodate up to 300,000 people. Peter's Square was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. When Bernini designed St. Peter's Basilica, he wanted to convey that the Catholic Church embraces all who visit it. With the dome of St. Peter's Basilica designed by Michelangelo as its head, he depicts two semicircular cloisters with his arms, expressing how St. Peter's Basilica gathers people with open arms. Construction of Bernini's Cloister, consisting of 284 Tuscan columns and 88 columns protruding from the walls, on either side of St. Peter's Square, started in 1656 and was completed in 1667. The 140 statues of saints perched on a 16-meter-tall marble columnar were carved by Bernini's pupils.


The expansive space in front of St. Peter's Basilica was redesigned between 1656 and 1667 by Gian Lorenzo Bernini on the orders of Pope Alexander VII. Thus, the central part of the façade of the Basilica and the window of the Vatican Palace were designed as an appropriately sized forecourt so that as many people as possible could see the Pope's blessings to the crowd. Bernini spent decades designing the interior of St. Peter's Square. Eventually he gave order to the space through his famous colonnade. The Doric Tuscan stock, the simplest arrangement in the classical architectural expression, was used so as not to compete with the palace-like façades of Carlo Maderno. However, to fit the space and evoke a feeling of awe, he used an unprecedented great proportions. The feasibility of the plaza site was subject to many restrictions due to the existing structures (see the picture on the right). As more and more annexes were added to the Vatican Palace, the space on the front right side of the cathedral was filled to the brim; The Pope's apartments had to be constructed so that they could not be seen. An obelisk was erected in the center, and a granite fountain made by Carlo Maderno stood in one corner of the square. Bernini made the fountain look like the focal point of an ellipse. Maderno's fountain was surrounded by a colonnade designed by Bernini, and finally, in 1675, five years before his death, another fountain was built next to it. The trapezoidal shape of the square, which was praised as a baroque theater of excellent workmanship by enhancing the perspective effect to visitors leaving the Grand Crusade, was a great achievement due to site restrictions. A huge Tuscan colonnade and four-pillar deep frame form a trapezoidal entrance to the cathedral and the massive oval area in front of it. The long axis of the ellipse, parallel to the basilicas, interrupts the continuum of the forward movement that is characteristic of the monumental approach of the Baroque. The oval central part of the square, contrasting with the trapezoidal entrance, surrounds the visitor with, in Bernini's words, 'motherly arms'. To the south, the colonnade space was defined and shaped with the Barberini Gardens rising over the horizon of cypresses. In the north, the colonnade obscures the buildings of the Vatican indistinguishably; The upper floors of the Vatican Palace rise above the colonnade. At the center of the ellipse is a red granite.