St. Peter's Square

Piazza San Pietro. (Open Map)


One of the most beautiful in the world. The first basilica of St Peter had been built by order of emperor Constantine on the spot of Peter’s tomb, near the circus of Nero where he had been martyrized. Began in 315, overcoming great technical juridical and liturgical difficulties, the church was consecrated by Pope Sylvester on 18 November 326. 

The building was comparable with the current one. In the course of the centuries it was embellished with mosaics, frescos, papal tombs and tombs of famous people and many and different works of art. After more than one thousand years, the building was collapsing and Pope Nicholas V, according to Leon Battista Alberti advice, decided to restore and enlarge the apsidal area and gave the project to Rossellino. 

Under Pope Julius II, Bramante started the complete rebuilding of the Basilica that was completed by artists like Raphael and above all Michelangelo. He made the building simpler and yet majestic and slender and designed a complete new dome. Such wonderful crowned Basilica triumphs in the middle of the square. Some decorative elements of the façade and the gorgeous elliptical colonnade are by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. 

The obelisk was placed in the middle of the square by Sixtus V and is one of the Egyptian obelisks brought to Rome at the time of Caligula. Between two majestic fountains, without hieroglyphics, the obelisk is placed on the back of four bronze lions, a work by Antichi. It is the old “aguglia” of medieval times, when it was thought that on top, in a bronze globe taken away by Sixtus V, were preserved Caesar’s ashes. Today on top of it, where is the bronze emblem with mountains and the star of the Chigi family, is enclosed a relic of the sacred cross.