Secrets and curiosities of the most famous square in Rome


The statues of Saint Peter

They are among the most beautiful attractions in the entire square. More than 350 years of history, St. Peter’s Square, always manages to amaze neighbors and pilgrims: it is in this square where the faithful from all over the world gather to listen to the words of the Holy Father and see with their own eyes the symbols of Christianity.

There Dome of San Pietro, known as “Er Cuppolone” to the Romans, is not the only wonder: the incredible square in front of the famous St. Peter’s Basilica was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and built between 1657 and 1667.

As you may have noticed, the space of the square is made up of Two parts: a first part, in the shape of a trapezoid, whose longest side corresponds to the façade with specific perspective motifs (canceling the great distance between the square and the basilica) and the second, larger, oval in shape with the Egyptian obelisk in the middle .

These two large areas meet again thanks to the colonnade of San Pietro, which has 4 rows with a total of 286 columns. The colonnade is crowned by 140 statues, 70 on the right and 70 on the left. And it is precisely these statues of Saint Peter that we want to tell you about: here are some curiosities about the most famous square in the world.

Curiosities and secrets of St. Peter’s Square

Ready to learn more about statues of the colonnade of San Pietro? Keep reading this guide to satisfy all your curiosities.

In the square: Bernini’s symbolism

As we have said, St. Peter’s Basilica is wrapped in a large square, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

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Piazza San Pietro is part of the territory of the Vatican City and it is delimited by the border with the Italian state; it can be reached from via di Porta Angelica and via della Conciliazione. In any case, if you don’t know how to find your way around, you’ll find everything in our section dedicated to getting around Rome.

Returning to us, the square is a complete example of baroque architecture, of a truly amazing beauty.

The symbolism linked to the design of the square is very simple: its oval shape was supposed to represent a hug, the embrace of the Church towards his faithful. In this regard, Bernini himself said:

The church of San Pedro, almost the matrix of all the others, must have had a portico that showed precisely that it received Catholics with open arms to confirm them in the faith, heretics to gather them to the Church, and infidels to enlighten them. to true faith

If you look closely, the square has a concave appearance, created to produce the “theater” effect: When this gets packed, the crowd sees itself, like in an auditorium.

The colonnade of San Pietro is perhaps the most striking distinctive element of the square; There are 286 columns, located in 4 rows.

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And the statues? The statues of Saint Peter exceed the colonnade and have a specific meaning. Let’s look at it together in the next paragraph.

The colonnade and statues of Saint Peter

The statues of Saint Peter are found each corresponding to a column, as if to represent unique triumphal columns.

Now you are thinking: why choose this arrangement? Well, Bernini wanted to represent the “ecclesia triumphans” in relation to the “ecclesia militans” which is the crowd of faithful praying in the square.

The statues in St. Peter’s Square are made of travertine and were worked by collaborators of Bernini himself under strict supervision. It won’t be difficult to understand there importance of these statues that, according to the theory, they represent a lighthouse, a guide for the pilgrim who goes to the tomb of the apostle Peter.

The dimensions of the sculptures are exactly half those of the façade of the basilica, which represent the apostles and a Jesus by Bernini’s hand.

The statues in the colonnade of San Pietro refer to a crowd of characters: we find, for example, Saint Joseph, husband of Holy Mary, Saint Elizabeth the Queen, the Master of the Sacred Doctrine Saint Thomas, Bishop Saint Charles, Pope Saint Leo the Great, the priest Saint Philip Neri, the lonely Saint Nilamone, candidate for protector of pilgrims in contemplation.

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There are also many other saints and some popes. Among the most popular saints, we recognize S. Martina, S. Bárbara, S. Filippo Benizi, saints Giovanni and Paolo, Cosma and Damiano.

In this procession towards the Risen Christ placed in the center and at the top of the façade we also find Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, whose statue was placed in 1704 by order of Clement XI.

These are the statues of Saint Peter placed outside, but the ones inside are a wonder not to be missed.

Three tips for visiting St. Peter’s Basilica

We close our guide dedicated to the statues of St. Peter’s Square with three tips to visit the most famous square in the world:

  • Don’t miss the interior of the Basilica: It is a masterpiece like no other, filled with priceless works of art. Among this, also the statue of Pieta by Michelangelo;
  • Take a good look at the prospects: the square was designed according to a truly unique perspective model. Observe it carefully and you will discover each time details that you had missed;
  • The tour of the seven churches: If you are faithful (but even if you are not), you can see the Basilica from a different point of view practicing the tour of the seven churches, one of the most moving rites. It is a walking pilgrimage that crosses the city, touching the seven churches that are symbolic of Christianity.