July 18, 2018

ONE NIGHT IN PIAZZA SAN PIETRO

The large square right in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican is the first place that people find themselves in when they come visiting. Right in the center stands an obelisk topped by a Cross that came all the way from Egypt which was erected in the 16th century. Previous to that, it stood in the middle of Nero’s Circus where brutal games were held and early Christians were executed. Ironic, isn’t it? Bernini designed the square including the curving colonnaded arcade that had four columns deep above which were sculptures of different saints standing on the roof. Pope Alexander II had it designed in such a way that “the greatest number of people could see the Pope give his blessing, either from the middle of the façade of the church or from a window in the Vatican Palace”. There are two fountains that adorn the square and a travertine pattern radiating outwards from the obelisk serves as a counterpoint to a sea of cobblestone. The size of the piazza is impressive at 320 x 240 meters (76,800 M2) and can accommodate a third of a million people. It is normally crowded during the daytime when the mass of tourists, pilgrims and worshippers congregate together in the place, either to enter the Basilica or line up for the Vatican Museum tour. But late at night when I arrived, it was almost empty and I was able to take shots unhurriedly with a tripod until past midnight when the police finally cleared the place of people.

St. Peter’s Basilica dominates the Square.
One of the two fountains that flank the Basilica.
The view from the main road leading to the square.
Chairs around Bernini’s sweeping colonnade were installed in preparation for the next day’s event.
The Obelisk and the Basilica.
Saints on the rooftop right above the basilica’s entrance.
The view looking outward of the square.
Yes, it is huge!
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