Thursday, 28 May 2009

What to see: St Peter’s Square, the Vatican City

St Peter’s Square, one of the greatest works of the Roman baroque, was laid out between 1657 and 1667 by the sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini on the orders of Pope Alexander VII. It is one of the greatest works of the Roman baroque and often counted as the very centre of the Christian world. When Bernini was given the task by the Pope, the square was to put it simply a mess which had to be completely rearranged.
Projecting from the façade of St Peter’s Basilica are two rectangular wings which frame the inner part of the square. The outer part of the square is in the shape of an ellipse, has a diameter of 240 metres from its northern to its southern end and is flanked by Doric colonnades on either side. Bernini himself described the colonnades as the “arms” of the church, stretching out in welcome to all visitors, believers and non-believers, and drawing them towards the church.
Because the colonnade is curved Bernini arranged the 284 columns four deep on radial axes and gradually increased their diameter in order not to disturb the proportions between spaces and columns. The colonnades are topped by 140 statues of saints, each measuring 3.1 metres in height, and six coats of arms of Alexander VII.

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