Visit An Iconic Landmark in Vatican City | St. Peter’s Square
What is St. Peter's Square?
Set in front of St. Peter’s Basilica is a gorgeous piazza called St. Peter’s Square or Piazza San Pietro. Other than being an important historical landmark, the piazza is an architectural marvel with much to appreciate.
It spreads over a massive expanse of land, consisting of an endless line of Doric colonnades, beautiful statues, and other exquisite structures that make it one of the most incredible squares in the world.
Why You Should Visit St. Peter’s Square?
St. Peter’s Square is an ancient piazza that sits at the core of Vatican City. It is believed that the structure was built on the site where Peter the Apostle was killed. Both St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter's Square were named after Peter, who was considered to be the first Pope.
Being an important landmark in the city, this open space plays host to an array of religious and cultural events year round, including the Papal Audience. Every year, millions of people visit St. Peter's Square to honor its history, to attend events, or to simply admire its magnificence.
Things to do at St. Peter's Square
- Visit St. Peter’s Basilica: Step inside the most famous church in the whole world, located right behind St. Peter’s Square.
- Climb the Dome: Don’t miss out on a chance to get beautiful panoramic and aerial views of St. Peter’s Square from atop the dome.
- Send a postcard: Collect some stamps or send a postcard to a loved one from the Vatican City post office at the piazza.
- Go shopping: Take back a souvenir from any of the shops around the square.
- Attend a Papal Audience: Witness the Pope greet the general public on any Wednesday at around 10:30 am at St. Peter’s Square. This takes place when the Pope is in Rome.
- Stand in 2 countries at once: Vatican City is a sovereign city-state with one part of its borders at St. Peter’s Square. Find the border and in Italy and the Vatican at the same time!
- Walk down the Via della Conciliazione: Get the perfect pictures of the basilica as you take a walk down the beautiful Via della Conciliazione.
Who built St. Peter’s Square?
St. Peter’s Square was built by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, an exceptional Italian sculptor, and architect. Often regarded as the Shakespeare of sculpture, Bernini is credited with creating the Baroque style - a style that was prominent in the 17th and 18th century.
This style of sculpting used groups of figures to create one dynamic figure. Some of his notable works include sculptures like David, The Rape of Proserpina, Apollo and Daphne, and Ecstacy of Teresa. St. Peter’s Square and St. Peter’s Basilica are other major creations of Bernini.
Design and Structure of St. Peter’s Square
Although called St. Peter’s Square, the piazza was constructed in an elliptical shape with a lot of intricate structures.
Four deep Doric colonnades make up the boundaries of St. Peter’s Square and form an elegant entrance to the Basilica. It is the most defining structure of the square with 284 columns and 88 pillars. Laid out in its elliptical manner, the colonnades are meant to embrace visitors with the “maternal arms of the Church.”
Standing tall at a height of 64 feet are 140 statues that adorn the top of the oval-shaped colonnades. These statues are the embodiment of various Saints and Martyrs, the creation of which was commissioned by Pope Alexander VII. Most of the statues were designed by architect Lorenzo Morelli and took over a decade to complete.More about the Statues
One of the most striking features of St. Peter’s Square is the tall Egyptian obelisk that stands at its center. Emperor Augustus had the obelisk moved to Alexandria, where it remained until 37AD. After this, Emperor Caligula commissioned for it to be brought to Rome and had it placed at the center of the Circus of Nero. It was shifted to its current spot in 1586 under the direction of Pope Sixtus V.
There are two almost identical fountains on either side of St. Peter’s Square. The first fountain was built in the year 1614 by architect Carlo Maderno, while the second one was built years later in 1675 by Bernini. Bernini constructed the second fountain in a similar style to Maderno’s.
The paving of St. Peter’s Square is varied using white lines made of travertine. These radiating lines were created in an elegant geometric fashion, giving the structure a neat look. A few circular stones were placed at the tip of the obelisk, having it act as the gnomon of a sundial. These stones were inscribed with the different zodiac signs so that at noon, the shadow of the obelisk is cast on the current sign.
Spina is the term given to median buildings that divide two or more roads. The buildings which divided the roads Borgo Vecchio and Borgo Nuovo, blocking the view of St. Peter’s Basilica from many points. Benito Mussolini decided to demolish the spine in 1936, creating a clear view of the Basilica from Castel Sant’Angelo.
Plan Your Visit to St. Peter’s Square
St. Peter’s Square is located at the core of Vatican City, right in front of the Basilica of St. Peter. It can be accessed at any time unless it is closed in the event of a ceremony.
Keep in mind that St. Peter’s Basilica is open between 7AM and 7PM (6PM in winter), so it makes sense to plan your visit around that.
Best time to visit: St. Peter’s Square is a prime landmark at the Vatican City, which means that there will be large crowds throughout the year. To avoid this, the best time to visit is either early in the morning between 7AM to 9AM or in the evening around 6PM or 7PM.More about Opening Hours
To get to St. Peter's Square, you can choose between taking a metro, bus, train, or taxi.
Metro: You can take metro line A and alight at Ottaviano station.
Bus: Bus routes 40 and 64 will get you close to St. Peter’s Square.
Train: Get off at St. Pietro - Vatican City's train station. St. Peter's Square is a 10-minute walk from here.
Taxi: You can book a local taxi or an Uber from your location to St. Peter's Square.Find on Maps
St. Peter's Square is located in Vatican City, which is a Holy landmark in Rome. All visitors must cover their shoulders and knees at all times during their visit. Attractions inside Vatican City will not allow visitors who are not dressed appropriately.More about the Dress Code
Many important ceremonies take place at St. Peter’s Square, including the Papal audience. When the Pope is in Rome, the Papal Audience usually takes place every Wednesday morning, anytime between 10AM to 11AM. Prayers and mass are also held for the general public from time to time, as well as celebrations on religious holidays like Christmas, Easter, and New Year’s Day.
Feast of the Chair of St. Peter: Every year on the 22nd of February, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter is celebrated at St. Peter's Square and St. Peter's Basilica.More about the Feast of the Chair
Visit St. Peter's Square & St. Peter's Basilica
Frequently Asked Questions About St. Peter’s Square
A. St. Peter’s Square is one of the largest squares in the world, located in Vatican City.
A. St. Peter’s Square was built in honor of the Apostle Peter. It was believed that he was killed at the site of the square.
A. St. Peter’s Square is located in Vatican City in front of St. Peter’s Basilica.
A. St. Peter’s Square was built between 1656 and 1667.
A. St. Peter’s Square was designed by renowned artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
A. Take the metro line A and get off at Ottaviano. Alternatively, bus routes 40 and 64 will take you close to St. Peter's Square. If you're taking a train, get off at St. Pietro station. You can also take a taxi from any point around the city.
A. Many holy events take place at St. Peter’s Square including prayers, religious ceremonies, and the Papal audience.
A. The obelisk at St. Peter’s Square was brought to Rome from Egypt in 37AD by the Roman Emperor Caligula.
A. The best time to visit St. Peter’s Square is either early in the morning between 7AM to 9AM or in the evening around 6PM or 7PM. Keep in mind that St. Peter’s Basilica is only open between 7AM and 7PM every day and till 6PM during winter.
A. Entrance to St. Peter’s Square is free throughout the year. However, for guided tours and other events, tickets can be purchased online.