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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.