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"St Peter's Square" St. Peter's Square - Piazza San Pietro Tip by Willettsworld

St. Peter's Square. This square (actually an oval) is the vast main entrance into Vatican territory. It's one of Bernini's most spectacular masterpieces, completed in 1667 after 11 years' work -- a relatively short time in those days, considering the vastness of the task -- and capable of holding 400,000 people. It is surrounded by a curving pair of quadruple colonnades, which are topped by a balustrade and statues of 140 saints. Look for the two disks set into the piazza's pavement on either side of the central obelisk. If you stand on either disk, a trick of perspective makes the colonnades seem to consist of a single row of columns.

The 85-foot-high Egyptian obelisk was brought to Rome by Caligula in AD 38 and was probably placed in his circus, believed to have been near here. It was moved to its current site in 1586 by Pope Sixtus V. The emblem at the top of the obelisk is the Chigi star, placed here in honor of Alexander VII, a member of the powerful Chigi family who was pope when the piazza was built.

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  • Written Jul 28, 2005
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