St Peter's Square

sights / Squares & plazas

St Peter's Square information

Location
Rome , Italy
Getting there
Metro: Ottaviano-San Pietro
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Overlooked by St Peter's Basilica, the Vatican’s central square was laid out between 1656 and 1667 to a design by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Seen from above, it resembles a giant keyhole with two semicircular colonnades, each consisting of four rows of Doric columns, encircling a giant ellipse that straightens out to funnel believers into the basilica. The effect was deliberate – Bernini described the colonnades as representing ‘the motherly arms of the church’.

The scale of the piazza is dazzling: at its largest it measures 340m by 240m. There are 284 columns and, atop the colonnades, 140 saints. The 25m obelisk in the centre was brought to Rome by Caligula from Heliopolis in Egypt and later used by Nero as a turning post for the chariot races in his circus.

Leading off the piazza, the monumental approach road, Via della Conciliazione , was commissioned by Mussolini and built between 1936 and 1950.