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St. Peter's Square (Italian : Piazza San Pietro [ˈpjattsa sam ˈpjɛːtro] , Latin : Forum Sancti Petri) is a large plaza located directly in front of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City, the papal enclave inside Rome, directly west of the neighborhood (rione) of Borgo. Both the square and the basilica are named after Saint Peter, an apostle of Jesus considered by Catholics 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.
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" (Norwich 1975 p 175). 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 Madernostood 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.
The colossal Doric colonnades, four columns deep,frame the trapezoidal entrance to the basilica and the massive elliptical area which precedes it. The ovato tondo's long axis, parallel to the basilica's façade, creates a pause in the sequence of forward movements that is characteristic of a Baroque monumental approach. The colonnades define the piazza. The elliptical center of the piazza, which contrasts with the trapezoidal entrance, encloses the visitor with "the maternal arms of Mother Church" in Bernini's expression. On the south side, the colonnades define and formalize the space, with the Barberini Gardens still rising to a skyline of umbrella pines. On the north side, the colonnade masks an assortment of Vatican structures; the upper stories of the Vatican Palace rise above.
At the center of the ovato tondo stands an uninscribed Egyptian obelisk of red granite, 25.5 m (84 ft) tall, supported on bronze lions and surmounted by the Chigi arms in bronze, in all 41 m (135 ft) to the cross on its top. The obelisk was originally erected at Heliopolis, Egypt, by an unknown pharaoh.
The Emperor Augustus had the obelisk moved to the Julian Forum of Alexandria, where it stood until AD 37, when Caligula ordered the forum demolished and the obelisk transferred to Rome. He had it placed on the spina which ran along the center of the Circus of Nero. It was moved to its current site in 1586 by the engineer-architect Domenico Fontana under the direction of Pope Sixtus V; the engineering feat of re-erecting its vast weight was memorialized in a suite of engravings. The Vatican Obelisk is the only obelisk in Rome that has not toppled since ancient Roman times. During the Middle Ages, the gilt ball on top of the obelisk was believed to contain the ashes of Julius Caesar. Fontana later removed the ancient metal ball, now in a Rome museum, that stood atop the obelisk and found only dust. Christopher Hibbert writes that the ball was found to be solid. Though Bernini had no influence in the erection of the obelisk, he did use it as the centerpiece of his magnificent piazza, and added the Chigi arms to the top in honor of his patron, Alexander VII.
The paving is varied by radiating lines in travertine, to relieve what might otherwise be a sea of setts. In 1817 circular stones were set to mark the tip of the obelisk's shadow at noon as the sun entered each of the signs of the zodiac, making the obelisk a gigantic sundial's gnomon. Below is a view of St. Peter's Square from the cupola (the top of the dome) which was taken in June 2007.
St. Peter's Square today can be reached from the Ponte Sant'Angelo along the grand approach of the Via della Conciliazione (in honor of the Lateran Treaty of 1929). The spina (median with buildings which divided the two roads of Borgo Vecchio and Borgo nuovo ) which once occupied this grand avenue leading to the square was demolished ceremonially by Benito Mussolini himself on October 23, 1936 and was completely demolished by October 8, 1937. St. Peter's Basilica was now freely visible from the Castel Sant'Angelo. After the spina, almost all the buildings south of the passetto were demolished between 1937 and 1950, obliterating one of the most important medieval and renaissance quarters of the city. Moreover, the demolition of the spina canceled the characteristic Baroque surprise, nowadays maintained only for visitors coming from Borgo Santo Spirito. The Via della Conciliazione was completed in time for the Great Jubilee of 1950.
Gian LorenzoBernini was an Italian sculptor and architect. While a major figure in the world of architecture, he was more prominently the leading sculptor of his age, credited with creating the Baroque style of sculpture. As one scholar has commented, "What Shakespeare is to drama, Bernini may be to sculpture: the first pan-European sculptor whose name is instantaneously identifiable with a particular manner and vision, and whose influence was inordinately powerful...." In addition, he was a painter and a man of the theater: he wrote, directed and acted in plays, for which he designed stage sets and theatrical machinery. He produced designs as well for a wide variety of decorative art objects including lamps, tables, mirrors, and even coaches.
The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican, or simply Saint Peter's Basilica, is a church built in the Renaissance style located in Vatican City, the papal enclave that is within the city of Rome.
The Circus of Nero or Circus of Caligula was a circus in ancient Rome, located mostly in the present-day Vatican City.
Domenico Fontana was an Italian architect of the late Renaissance, born in today's Ticino. He worked primarily in Italy, at Rome and Naples.
Borgo is the 14th rione of Rome, Italy. It is identified by the initials R. XIV and is included within Municipio I.
Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi is a fountain in the Piazza Navona in Rome, Italy. It was designed in 1651 by Gian Lorenzo Bernini for Pope Innocent X whose family palace, the Palazzo Pamphili, faced onto the piazza as did the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone of which Innocent was the sponsor.
Carlo Fontana was an Italian architect originating from today's Canton Ticino, who was in part responsible for the classicizing direction taken by Late Baroque Roman architecture.
Piazza del Popolo is a large urban square in Rome. The name in modern Italian literally means "People's Square", but historically it derives from the poplars after which the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, in the northeast corner of the piazza, takes its name.
Via della Conciliazione is a street in the Rione of Borgo within Rome, Italy. Roughly 500 metres (1,600 ft) in length, it connects Saint Peter's Square to the Castel Sant'Angelo on the western bank of the Tiber River. The road was constructed between 1936 and 1950, and it is the primary access route to the Square. In addition to shops, it is bordered by a number of historical and religious buildings – including the Palazzo Torlonia, the Palazzo dei Penitenzieri and the Palazzo dei Convertendi, and the churches of Santa Maria in Traspontina and Santo Spirito in Sassia.
This is an index of Vatican City–related topics.
The Fountains of St. Peter's Square are two fountains in St. Peter's Square in Vatican City, created by Carlo Maderno (1612–1614) and Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1667–1677) to ornament the square in front of St. Peter's Basilica. The older fountain, by Maderno, is on the north side of the square.
Palazzo Cesi-Armellini, sometimes known plainly as Palazzo Cesi, is a late Renaissance building in Rome, important for historical and architectural reasons. The palace, which should not be confused with Palazzo Cesi-Gaddi, Palazzo Muti-Cesi, or the destroyed Palazzo Cesi, placed also in Borgo near the southern Colonnade of St. Peter's square, is one of the few Renaissance buildings of the rione Borgo to have survived the destruction of the central part of the neighborhood due to the 20th century construction of Via della Conciliazione, the avenue leading to St. Peter's Basilica.
Palazzo dei Convertendi is a reconstructed Renaissance palace in Rome. It originally faced the Piazza Scossacavalli, but was demolished and rebuilt along the north side of Via della Conciliazione, the wide avenue constructed between 1936 and 1950, which links St Peter's Basilica and the Vatican City to the centre of Rome. The palace is famous as the last home of the painter Raphael, who died there in 1520.
Palazzo Alicorni is a reconstructed Renaissance building in Rome, important for historical and architectural reasons. The palace, originally lying only a few meters away from Bernini's Colonnades in St. Peter's square, was demolished in 1930 in the wake of the process of the border definition of the newly established Vatican City state, and rebuilt some hundred meters to the east. According to the stylistic analysis, his designer had been identified as Giovanni Mangone, a Lombard architect active in Rome during the 16th century.
The Palazzo Rusticucci-Accoramboni is a reconstructed late Renaissance palace in Rome. Erected by the will of Cardinal Girolamo Rusticucci, it was designed by Domenico Fontana and Carlo Maderno joining together several buildings already existing. Due to that, the building was not considered a good example of architecture. Originally lying along the north side of the Borgo Nuovo street, after 1667 the building faced the north side of the large new square located west of the new Saint Peter's Square, designed in those years by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The square, named Piazza Rusticucci after the palace, was demolished in 1937–40 because of the erection of the new Via della Conciliazione. In 1940 the palace was dismantled and rebuilt with a different footprint along the north side of the new avenue, constructed between 1936 and 1950, which links St Peter's Basilica and the Vatican City to the center of Rome.
In Ancient Rome, the Ager Vaticanus was the alluvial plain on the right (west) bank of the Tiber. It was also called Ripa Veientana or Ripa Etrusca, indicating the Etruscan dominion during the archaic period. It was located between the Janiculum, the Vatican Hill, and Monte Mario, down to the Aventine Hill and up to the confluence of the Cremera creek.
Borgo Nuovo, originally known as via Alessandrina, also named via Recta or via Pontificum, was a road in the city of Rome, Italy, important for historical and architectural reasons. Built by Pope Alexander VI Borgia for the holy year of 1500, the road became one of the main centers of the high Renaissance in Rome. Borgo Nuovo was demolished together with the surrounding quarter in 1936-37 due to the construction of Via della Conciliazione.
Borgo Vecchio, also named in the Middle Ages Via Sancta, Carriera Sancta or Carriera Martyrum was a road in the city of Rome, Italy, important for historical and architectural reasons. The road was destroyed together with the surrounding quartier in 1936-37 due to the construction of Via della Conciliazione.
Piazza Scossacavalli, also named Piazza di San Clemente, Piazza di Trento, Piazza d'Aragona, Piazza Salviati, was a square in Rome, Italy, important for historical and architectonic reasons. The square was demolished together with the surrounding quarter in 1937 due to the construction of Via della Conciliazione.
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|Bernini's St. Peter's Square, Smarthistory|