Growing up, it has been my dream to travel all around Europe.
I was so into history and architecture at that time and Europe boasts of so much impressive design evident in its grand castles, palaces, and memorable statues and landmarks.
The Vatican, located within Rome, held so much mystique for me, thanks to the very impressive St. Peter’s Basilica and the grand piazza all around it and it has always figured high in my travel bucket list.
The grand dome, the colonnades and the statues of the apostles adorning the roof give the piazza so much beauty and character.
I have seen countless photographs and postcards of the piazza and I thought that I already knew what I was going into when I traveled to the Vatican recently.
Nothing prepared me for the grandeur and majesty of the St. Peter’s Basilica that I was literally awestruck.
The St. Peter’s Square was designed and built by famous sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini between 1656 and 1667, during the pontificate of Alexander VII (1655-1667).
But the square was actually preceded by the red granite Egyptian obelisk located at the very center of the piazza. The obelisk, measuring 25.5 meters tall, originally stood at Heliopolis in Egypt in 2000 BC. It has been moved several times until it was delivered to Rome by the Emperor August in 1585.
St. Peter’s Square is huge!!! The square is reportedly 320 m deep, its diameter is 240 m and it is surrounded by 284 columns, set out in rows of four, and 88 pilasters.
According to the Official Vatican Description, “the square is made up of two different areas. The first has a trapezoid shape, marked off by two straight closed and convergent arms on each side of the church square. The second area is elliptical and is surrounded by the two hemicycles of a four-row colonnade”
Supposedly, Bernini designed the piazza as such to give the square “an open-armed, maternal welcome to all Catholics, confirming their faith; to heretics reconciling them with the Church and to the infidels, enlightening them about true faith”
Those statues of saints that held my imagination as a kid were built by Bernini’s students and followers. There are 140 statues of saints placed along the balustrade above the columns.
The square is also adorned by two fountains built by Bernini and his rival sculptor Carlo Maderno.
The wide, main avenue leading to the St. Peter’s Square is the Via della Conciliazione and this gives the square a more visually striking look.
Most people visit the square and the bassilica during daytime in order to gain entry into the museum. But since I only had two days in The Vatican, I decided to skip the museum and opted to just take a stroll all around the square and the restaurants and structures along via della conciliazone.
For several hours, I marveled at the basilica and the square, watching the sun set on this holy place. Indeed, it was one of my most memorable travel experiences and I can’t wait to go back to come see it again.