St. Peter’s Square, The Vatican

St. Peter’s Square and St. Peter’s Basilica are the heart of Vatican city, an independent city state and a distinct territory under the exclusive ownership and authority of the Holy See. The square and the Basilica are named after St. Peter, an apostle of Jesus, widely considered to be the first Pope.

The square, approached via the grand Via della Conciliazione from the Ponte Sant’Angelo, has two colossal Doric collonades, four columns deep, on the left and right side. Above the colonnade on the right side of the square is The Apostolic Palace, also known as the Papal Palace, the Palace of the Vatican, or the Palace of Sixtus V. This building contains the Papal apartments, the official residence of the Pope, various offices of the Catholic Church and the Holy See, private and public chapels, the world-famous Vatican Museums, and the Vatican Library, the Sistine Chapel, whose ceiling has frescos painted by Michelangelo, the Raphael Rooms and the Borgia Apartment.

In the center of the square, stands an uninscribed Egyptian red granite obelisk. This obelisk was originally erected at Heliopolis in Egypt, then moved to Alexandria by Emperor Augustus, brought to Rome by Caligula, and finally moved to its current site in 1586, under the direction of Pope Sixtus V. The paving of the square has radiating lines in travertine, a form of limestone. In 1817, circular stones were set to mark the tip of the obelisk’s shadow at noon, making the obelisk a giant sundial.

At the rear of the square is St. Peter’s Basilica, the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and the largest church in the world. Designed by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the basilica is cruciform in shape, with an elongated nave in the Latin Cross form, and an enormous dome, one of the largest in the world. The interior is vast, and lavishly decorated with marble, reliefs, architecture sculpture and gilding.


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