Thursday, September 28, 2006

Saint Peter's Piazza - Rome

Piazza S Pietro

St. Peter's Square in Rome is one of the panoramic images found on the Tour of Rome. There are over 100 images taken from around Rome linked to an interactive map.

Full 360° panorama of Saint Peter's Square (Piazza San Pietro)

Saint Peter's Square (Piazza San Pietro) is also known as Saint Peter's Piazza. It is the open space directly in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. It is here that a congregation gathers every Wednesday morning to hear a Papal address, and also to see the Pope from the balcony of the Papal residence to the right of the piazza. The dimensions of St. Peter’s Square are almost identical to those of the inside of the Colosseum. It is estimated that 300,000 people could easily gather here without crowding.

Design of St. Peter's Square:
St. Peter’s Square was redesigned by Gian Lorenzo Bernini under the rule of Pope Alexander VI between 1656 to 1667. The piazza is partially surrounded by two curved, covered colonnades, each of which contains 4 rows of a total of 284 Doric style columns. On top of each colonnade are statues of 96 saints and martyrs. At the centre of the Piazza is a 25.5m tall red granite obelisk which dates from the 13th Century BC. It had originally been brought to Rome from Egypt in 35 AD by Emperor Caligula and was moved to the current site in 1586 by the engineer Domenico Fontana under the direction of Pope Sixtus V. The task took 900 men, 150 horses and 47 purpose-built cranes to complete. On the top of the obelisk was a guilt ball that was thought to contain the ashes of Julius Caesar. This was removed a replaced with an iron cross.

At the focal point of each of the colonnades are spectacular 2 fountains which were placed here in 1614 and 1667. Between the obelisk and each fountain is a small round porphyry slab. Viewing the colonnades from these positions gives you the illusion that there is only one row of columns. The paving of the square is broken up by lines of travertine radiating from the centre. Around the obelisk are the markings of a compass. In 1817 circular stones were set to mark the tip of the obelisk at noon as the sun entered each of the signs of the zodiac, making of the obelisk a gigantic sundial's gnomon.

From the far end of the Piazza three flights of steps ascend to the entrance of St Peter’s Basilica, the focal point of the temporal jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church.

There are more panoramas from the Vatican on Panoramic Earth. The larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

For more articles on Rome see the Rome Index or select one of the labels at the bottom.

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