Explore the St. Peter's Square

The Vatican is filled to the brim with world-renowned buildings and structures of all kinds. Though people travel from across the globe to view what’s on display inside these buildings, many of which are museums, some forget to enjoy the beauty of what’s outside.

St. Peter's Square

What is St Peter’s Square

St Peter’s Basilica is arguably the most famous building in the Vatican City, and certainly the largest. While the building both inside and out is an absolute work of art, the grounds located directly on this building’s doorstep can prove to be just as much of an attraction. This large plaza, like the basilica, was named after Saint Peter who was one of Jesus’ apostles as well as the first Catholic Pope. This is also one of the largest squares in the world, at 320m in length and 240m in width, it can hold a staggering 300 000 people.

When was St Peter’s Square Built?

Pope Alexander XII oversaw the project, with the skilled hands of Gian Lorenzo Bernini working tirelessly on the design and construction from 1656 to 1667. The original purpose of this square in the words of Pope Alexander XII was ’so that the greatest number of people could see the Pope give is blessing’. The entire square is framed by 284 columns and 88 pilasters. Though Bernini’s work ended in 1667, his pupils continued to add to the square, installing 140 total statues above the columns in 1670. Though all of these installations are impressive, the most evident is the obelisk at the very heart of the square. Standing at 25 meters high, this phenomenal piece of rock was carried all the way from Egypt to Rome in 1586. The interesting thing about this obelisk is that it was actually installed in the same year, which means that the entire square was built around this mighty ancient Egyptian stone.

To add to the true magnificence of St Peter’s Square, the Royal Staircase was built between 1662 and 1666, just in time for the completion of the square. These stairs link the square to the Vatican Palaces and are themselves a sight to behold. What makes them so unique is their forced perspective. The designers of these stairs created them to look a whole lot longer than they are, and though they only measure in at 60 meters, they appear to be a little over 100. This was achieved by the continual narrowing of the staircase’s width, and the designers even went so far as to reduce the distance between the columns towards the top.

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