Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter's Square)
The grand Piazza San Pietro in front of St. Peter's Basilica was laid out by Bernini between 1656 and 1667 to provide a setting where the faithful from all over the world could gather. It still serves that purpose admirably, and is filled to capacity each Easter Sunday and on other important occasions. The large oval area, 372 meters long, is enclosed at each end by semicircular colonnades surmounted by a balustrade with 140 statues of saints. On either side of the oval are fountains, and in the center is a 25.5-meter Egyptian obelisk brought from Heliopolis by Caligula in AD 39 and set up in his circus. It was moved here in 1586, no small task in those days as the monument weighs 350 tons. The focal point, however, is the façade of the basilica, from whose central balcony the Pope delivers his blessings and announces beatifications and canonizations. From here also, the senior member of the College of Cardinals proclaims the name of a new Pope elected by the conclave.