rome place st-pierre

St. Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro)

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The grandiose cathedral, built in the sixteenth century, needed an appropriate setting. The Vatican decided that the poorly planned rectangle of metropolitan land at the foot of the temple should have a more elegant shape. In addition, the road leading from the Apostolic Palace (Palazzi Apostolici) to the basilica had to be created. Lorenzo Bernini created St. Peter’s Square over a period of 11 years, beginning construction in 1656.

Bernini’s architectural plan had two major elements: the oval plan of the square itself, surrounded by crescents of trapezoidal galleries and alleys leading to the square and the cathedral. From above, the square, the alley and the cathedral resemble a key, which has earned them the name “Key of St. Peter”. The square oval is set in a bowl with two galleries equipped with columns. A colonnade of 284 Doric columns and 80 travertine pillars is crowned by a mansard, which is decorated with 140 sculptures of saints and dozens of church emblems. On major Catholic holidays, St. Peter’s Square welcomes some 400,000 visitors!

Interesting facts

In the cathedral square, there are two geometric centers from which the 4 rows of columns are hidden one after another.

According to legend, the ashes of Julius Caesar were kept at the top of the obelisk, but when the obelisk was transferred in the 16th century, it turned out that there was nothing.

The Italian police can only enter the cathedral by special invitation.

The idea of building part of the square in the shape of a trapezium was borrowed by Bernini from Michelangelo.
For over 1000 years, the Vatican and St. Peter’s Cathedral were not considered the center of Christianity – the popes only moved there in the 15th century from the Lateran Basilica.

By tradition, no building in Rome can be higher than the dome of St. Peter’s.