The elliptical Piazza San Pietro (Saint Peter’s Square) in Rome was designed by Bernini, who is also responsible for the two galleries of columns “embracing” the square.
Saint Peter’s Square Rome
St. Peter’s Square is the only part of the Vatican City that can be visited at any time of the day. Admission is free.
Saint Peter’s Square contains two fountains and an Egyptian obelisk. According to popular belief, the obelisk is crowned by a piece of the cross Christ was crucified on.
The Egyptian obelisk was brought from Heliopolis by Emperor Caligula. It was transported in a boat filled with lentils, in order to prevent the monument from breaking in half. In 1586 Pope Sixtus V ordered Domenico Fontana to place the obelisk in its present position.
The square is surrounded by Bernini‘s famous Colonnade, the two arms of which symbolically welcome the visitors into the basilica. The four rows of columns have a length of 320 meters (350 yards) and are crowned by 140 gigantic statues. When you go near the central obelisk you will see a small brick stone in the pavement. If you stand on this stone the 4 rows of columns seem to turn into just 1. Bernini created this effect by gradually diminishing the diameter of the columns. The Colonnade was finished in 1667.
Nowadays, when approaching Saint Peter’s Square from the Castel Sant’Angelo the basilica and the piazza are visible from afar. Until the 1930’s this was not possible. The Borgo district was purposely laid out in such a way that it would not be possible to have a direct view of the Vatican City from anywhere. This changed after Mussolini‘s Lateran Pact with the Catholic Church in 1929.
Every Sunday at noon (when he is in Rome), the Pope blesses the crowd gathered on the square.
Contrary to what many people expect is Saint Peter’s Square not the biggest square in Rome. That honor belongs to the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II.