St Peter’s Square is the gateway to the Vatican, which is the world’s smallest sovereign city state. The immensely impressive square boasts a magnificent sprawl of architecture and a deep etching of history that spans back thousands and thousands of years.
The best Vatican tours also give visitors the chance to see the Pope’s weekly blessing, which takes place in St Peter’s Square. As the heart of the Catholic faith, the square has drawn in people from all over the world since it became the main papal residence in 1378.
Here are some of the key reasons you should visit.
1. Stand in Two Countries at Once
With one of the laxest borders in the world, it’s easy for visitors to spread out between Italy and the Vatican in St Peter’s Square. A large part of the border is walled, but there is a section in Piazza San Pietro where the two countries are simply separated by a thick white line. How many places can you go to and say you’ve straddled two countries at the same time?
2. Admire the Bernini Colonnade
The buildings that surround St Peter’s Square are worth the visit alone. To one side, Bernini’s Colonnade carves an impressive frame for the square. Designed by Bernini himself, the colonnade was originally constructed as a way to replicate the open arms of the Holy Mother Church.
3. Check Out Peter and Paul
St Peter’s Basilica is topped with a selection of statues of Christ and the other Apostles, but in St Peter’s Square, Peter and Paul take the spotlight. Their statues are set just off the stairs that lead up to the Basilica. Commissioned by Pope Pius IX in 1847, Peter’s statue can be seen to hold the keys to the Basilica, which were supposedly handed to him by Christ to demonstrate his responsibility
4. Tell the Time with the Obelisk
The first thing you’ll see in St Peter’s Square is the impressive towering Egyptian Obelisk. It stands right in the heart of the square, and has done since it was brought over to Rome by Caligula in 37 BC. It was placed where it is to mark the epicenter of games and executions that would become known as the Circus of Nero. You can use its shadow to tell the time, much like a sundial.
5. Catch a Glimpse of the Pope
The main reason visitors flock to the clutches of St Peter’s Square is to catch a glimpse of the Pope himself. Every Wednesday, the Pope holds an audience in the square. The event begins at 10.30am and works on a first come, first served basis, so get there early if you want to experience this world-famous event.
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