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Since we were living right across the street, we spent a lot of time here.  There are two things obvious about St. Peter's Square and the Papal Basilica there.  The first is that they can be used to define the word "large."  The basilica is so large that you could throw a half dozen other basilicas inside it and still have room.  The second is that if you enjoy taking photographs, you will feel like you've already died and gone to heaven.  A person could spend years just exploring and photographing and never feel finished.


The picture above and the one below were made from the roof of Maria Bambina.  Each picture was made by taking a correct exposure photo and two others, one 2 f-stops over and the other 2 f-stops under.  The 3 shots were then digitally aligned in the computer and a tone mapping program composed the final picture.  This is commonly referred to as HDR (high dynamic range) imaging.  Above is the basilica and the square (which is really a trapezoid joined to an ellipse).



This is the adjacent picture showing the Vatican Palace complex.  The rectangle to the left of the center obelisk is one of perhaps a dozen very large screen TVs set up in the square.  While I was making the pictures, Pope Benedict's Mass in London was being live-streamed to the screens.  The colonnade forming the ellipse of the piazza is composed of 284 columns in rows of 4 and 88 pillars.  The marble columns are 66 feet high and 5 feet in diameter.



The ancient Egyptian obelisk was brought to Rome by Augustus and made the centerpiece of the Circus of Nero.  It was thus a witness to the crucifixion of St. Peter.  Counting it's base, the obelisk is 135 feet tall. On either side are fountains at the focal points of the large ellipse forming the "square."  The long axis of the ellipse is about 250 meters.



The ellipse is connected to the basilica by a trapezoidal section.  Note the radiating lines of travertine stone emanating from the obelisk.  These were put in to break up the boredom of plain cobblestones.


The Vatican's Swiss Guards.  There is also a uniformed security service and a plain-clothes security force maintained.



One of the two fountains with the obelisk and north colonnade in the background.



Atop the colonnade are 140 statues of saints looking down into the piazza.  The statues are a few inches short of 20 feet tall.



The coat of arms of Pope Alexander VII who commissioned the construction of the colonnade.



Both front corners of the basilica have a clock integrated into the bell system.  St. Peter's has 6 bells ranging in weight from 572 lb to 10 tons. They ring the quarter hour and for special events.  To hear them, try here.  You'll have to use your back button to return here.  From our room, we obviously heard them quite well.  I found their sound very pleasing, especially at night.



A close-up of the statuary surrounding one of the clocks.



Across the top of the basilica are 13 statues.  Twelve are of apostles and saints.  The center one (in the picture to the left) is of Christ the Redeemer.



Probably the most familiar doorway on the basilica.  This is the balcony where the Pope stands to address the crowds in St. Peter's Square.



The main doorway to the basilica.  The line for admission to view the interior was about a kilometer long every day that we were there.  When the visitor reaches the first portico, he is required to go through a security checkpoint similar to entering an airliner.  We always waited until about 4 pm when the line was shorter.  With the temperature in the 90s, the line got a bit shorter that time of day.



The relief above the main doorway depicting Christ giving the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven to St. Peter.





The most enjoyable moment of every day for me came around 7:30 pm.  I'd take a cappuccino up to the roof garden and watch as the light systems in the piazza and basilica came on one at a time.  The last lights would usually come on just as the bells of St. Peter's started ringing the quarter-hour.