St. Peter’s Square is a stunning, iconic, large plaza located directly in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City, the papal enclave inside Rome, directly west of the neighbourhood or rione of Borgo. A must see for any visit to Rome.
St. Peter’s Square serves as a gathering place for important events and ceremonies, including papal audiences and various celebrations. It is also the starting point for processions and events that take place within Vatican City. The overall design of the square and its elements contribute to its spiritual significance and the sense of awe experienced by visitors.
Saint Peter’s Square (Latin: Forum Sancti Petri, Italian: Piazza San Pietro [ˈpjattsa sam ˈpjɛːtro]) is a large plaza located directly in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, the papal enclave in Rome, directly west of the neighborhood (rione) of Borgo. Both the square and the basilica are named after Saint Peter, an apostle of Jesus whom Catholics consider to be the first Pope.
At the centre of the square is an ancient Egyptian obelisk, erected at the current site in 1586. Gian Lorenzo Bernini designed the square almost 100 years later, including the massive Doric colonnades, four columns deep, which embrace visitors in “the maternal arms of Mother Church”. A granite fountain constructed by Bernini in 1675 matches another fountain designed by Carlo Maderno in 1613.
Fresco of St. Peter’s Square, c. 1587, before the dome of the new St. Peter’s Basilica or the façade had been built
The open space which lies before the basilica was redesigned by Gian Lorenzo Bernini from 1656 to 1667, under the direction of Pope Alexander VII, as an appropriate forecourt, designed “so that the greatest number of people could see the Pope give his blessing, either from the middle of the façade of the church or from a window in the Vatican Palace”. Bernini had been working on the interior of St. Peter’s for decades; now he gave order to the space with his renowned colonnades, using a simplified Doric order, to avoid competing with the palace-like façade by Carlo Maderno, but he employed it on an unprecedented colossal scale to suit the space and evoke a sense of awe.
There were many constraints from existing structures (illustration, right). The massed accretions of the Vatican Palace crowded the space to the right of the basilica’s façade; the structures needed to be masked without obscuring the papal apartments. The obelisk marked a centre, and a granite fountain by Maderno stood to one side: Bernini made the fountain appear to be one of the foci of the ovato tondo embraced by his colonnades and eventually matched it on the other side, in 1675, just five years before his death. The trapezoidal shape of the piazza, which creates a heightened perspective for a visitor leaving the basilica and has been praised as a masterstroke of Baroque theater (illustration, below right), is largely a product of site constraints.
According to the Lateran Treaty the area of St. Peter’s Square is subject to the authority of Italian police for crowd control even though it is a part of the Vatican state.
t. Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro) is a large plaza located in Vatican City, an independent city-state enclaved within Rome, Italy. It is named after St. Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and considered the first pope by the Catholic Church. The square is a prominent pilgrimage site and a popular tourist destination due to its association with St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican.
Key features of St. Peter’s Square: