St. Peter's Square in Vatican City
St. Peter's square is located directly in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. Rich in history, architecture and art, Saint Peter’s Square inspires awe and reverence in those who come to Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. St. Peter's Square was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and was constructed from 1656 to 1667, commissioned by Pope Alexander VII to build a square that would enable huge crowds to see the Pope and receive his blessing. Over 350,000 people may fill the square during special occasions such as Easter Mass and the Papal Conclave, when a new pope is elected.
The elliptical shaped square, measures 196 meters long and 240 meters wide. The ground of the square is paved with Cobblestones and is divided into 8 triangular shaped sections by travertine lines. At the center of the square stands a 25.5 meter tall ancient Egyptian obelisk, 41 meters high including its added base. This obelisk is over 4000 years old and was brought to Rome from Alexandria by Emperor Caligula in 37 AD. Circular stones were added around the obelisk in 1817 turning St. Peter’s square into a huge sundial with the obelisk serving as its gnomon. On opposite sides of the obelisk are 2 identical fountains. One was designed by Carlo Moderno in 1613 and the he second was added in 1677 by Bernini who copied Moderno’s fountain to keep the symmetry of Saint Peter’s Square.
St. Peter's square has 4 rowed colonnades on either side which symbolize the embracing arms of the Catholic Church. Each column is 20 meters high and 1.6 meters wide. Adorning the rooftop of the colonnades are 140 statues of various saints consisting of former popes, martyrs, evangelists and other Christian figures. The statues were created by Bernini and his students over a span of some 40 years.
Saint Peter's SQuare lies infrot of St. Peter’s Basilica - one of the largest and most beautiful churches worlwide. St. Peter's basilica was built on the site believed to be the burial place of Saint Peter, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ.
St. Peter is considered to be the first Bishop of Rome and as such is the fisrt Pope. A statue of St. Peter holding the key to the Kingdom of Heaven instilled to him by Jesus Christ can be seen by the stairs of St. Peter's Basilica:
“..Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven…”