An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XII

Bernini's Colonnade Encircling Piazza San Pietro, Vatican City, Italy (LEO Design)

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish. 

While Michelangelo is my all time favorite artist, perhaps Gian Lorenzo Bernini is my second-favorite sculptor. He was born 34 years after Michelangelo's death and his work defines the motion (and emotion) of Italian Baroque marble sculpting.

But Bernini was also an architect. He is responsible for creating the "welcoming arms" of the Piazza San Pietro—the two colonnades which line the sides (and define the shape of) the Basilica's massive front square.

A church has been maintained on this site since the early 300's AD. From 1506 to 1626, Saint Peter's Basilica as we know it was constructed. It is the largest church in the world—and holds pride of place as the most important shrine in Christendom. Bernini was tapped to re-design the front square, thus giving the basilica a piazza worthy of such a grand temple. Between 1656 and 1667, Bernini oversaw the construction of the two colonnades which he described as "the welcoming arms of the Mother Church." They occupy the far ends of the oval-shaped piazza. Bernini also carved a second fountain to match one created 60 years earlier. Each fountain is sited to be the "hub" of each curving colonnade. An ancient Egyptian obelisk stands dead center, previously standing at the Circus of Nero since 37 AD. The obelisk is called "The Witness" as it is believed to have been standing (and witnessing) the (upside down) crucifixion of Saint Peter—the Catholic Church's first pope—around the year 64 AD.

Along the top of the colonnades is a series of sculptures by various sculptors. Lazzaro Morelli's name is credited more frequently than any other sculptor.

We'll continue our summer holiday tomorrow. 


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