THE COLONNADES , OBELISK AND FOUNTAINS OF ST PETER’S SQUARE
One good thing which came out from the photo of the mystery man at St. Pietro of summer of 1956, was the knowledge I have learned about the colonnades, the obelisk and the two fountains of the square.
The facade of St. Peter’s Basilica was completed after almost a century‘s hard work. To glorify the Basilica, the colonnades were designed and built between 1656 and 1667 with the initiative of an art loving Pope; Alexander VII and designed and built by architect Gian Loronzo Bernini. The oval St. Peter’s Square is closed by two semi-circular particoes with 284 Doric columns in four rowes behind each other, creating three parallel lanes between them. The columns are 16 meters high and were made from 44 000 cubic ft. of travertine stone brought here from Tivoli, 30 kilometers away from Rome. The columns are decorated on top with140 statues, each little over 3 meters in height and representing Apostle St. Paul, saints of Catholicism, popes, martyrs of the Roman Empire and 38 women. The Colonnades also represent the border between the Vatican and Italy.
The Obelisk was originally erected in Heliopolis, by an unknown Pharaoh of the 5th Dynasty of Egypt in the 13th Century B.C. It was moved to the Julian Forum in Alexandria in 37 A.D. by the Emperor Augustus of the Roman Empire. But shortly after, the third Roman Emperor Caligula destroyed the Julian Forum and brought the obelisk to Rome and placed it on the central spina, which was situated to the left of the present Saint Peter’s Basilica. Here in this arena, to be called Circus Neronis later on, Emperor Nero was going to entertain himself with brutal gladiators, war games and execute Christians. In 1586 engineer-architect Domenico Fontona moved the obelisk to its present position. When Benini designed St Peter’s Square almost a century later, he left the Obelisk in its current place, but used the Obelisk as the center monument of the Piazza. The Obelisk is made from red granite stone and is 25 meters tall, but with its base, supported by four bronze lions, and the cross on top, it’s height reaches 41 meters.
THE TWO FOUNTAINS
The older of the two fountains in St Peter's Square lies to the North of Piazza and is called the Maderno Fountain. It was built by Carlo Maderno between 1612 and 1614, in the place of an older fountain built in 1490 during the time of Pope Innocent VIII. Maderno redesigned the new fountain from base to the two vasquez and ornamented the pedestal with four stone scrolls using some parts of the old fountain. Like all the other fountains of the time the fountain was not operated by any pumps but was using gravity as the power instead. The source of water being higher than the fountain resulted in the water shooting upwards.
The twin fountain on the Piazza di St Pietro was built by Lorenzo Bernini in 1677 and is named after his creator.
May, 24 2022
Photos: Ozmeral Family Archives