Visiting the Vatican - What to See and Do

Saint Peter’s Square

Places to see 0 1515
St Peters square

The majestic St Peter’s Square is the immense space which embraces the faithful pilgrims and visitors to the centre of Christianity with its colonnade. It is not anywhere that you can see so many people from all over the world united by the power of faith or cultural relevance.
The arrival, through Via della Conciliazione, with Michelangelo’s work in front of your eyes, the dome and the episcopal palaces is overwhelming.

History

The current configuration of the square dates from the XVII century by the hand of  Bernini, on the initiative of Pope Alexander VII. The goal was to get as many people as possible to see the Pope giving his blessing, from the very front or from the windows of the Vatican Palace.
To do this, he designed a space of colossal  dimensions, organized as a circular Doric style colonnade in order not to compete with the palace-style façade of the Basilica itself.

Structure

The square is a great trapezoidal levelled area  which widens laterally into two passages of ellipse-shaped colonnades topped by a balustrade on which one hundred and forty figures of saints from different times and places settle; inside we find  two fountains, one in each focus of the ellipse, where a monumental obelisk was erected in the middle of the square.

Obelisk

The large central obelisk has a height of 25 meters  and no hieroglyphic inscriptions. It dates from 30 BC in Alexandria. It was brought to Rome by Caligula in 37 for the spina del Circo Vaticano and subsequently placed in its current location by Pope Sixtus V in 1586.

Curiosities and tips for your visit

– St Peter’s Square is a place used for major events, which due to their high level of attendance, cannot even be housed in the Basilica. We talk about multitudinous Masses, papal receptions, blessings, Angelus etc.

– The number of visitors is huge all year, especially in the major liturgical celebrations. It is recommended to prepare the visit early in the morning, to avoid the masses. The view at night is definitely also worth seeing and waiting for.

– The new times and huge audiences have made it necessary to organize the space and affect its original configuration with fences, giant screens, toilets …, unavoidable elements to provide decent service to the millions of visitors.

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