The Water Features Of St. Peters Square
The Fountains at St. Peter’s Square are made up of two fountains in Rome, Italy used to decorate the square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. These fountains were created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Carlo Maderno. The older fountain, by Maderno, is on the north side of the square.
The Maderno Fountain was located on the site of a previous fountain that had been built in 1490. At the time this fountain as the finest in Rome. In 1612, the ancient Roman aqueduct, Aqua Traiana, was rebuilt and renamed the Acqua Paola. The fountain was then commissioned to be rebuilt be Maderno. The design included an octagonal base which supported an irregular basin. It was decorated with steps and small columns. Maderno kept the large lower stone vasque of the old fountain as well as the old pedestal with four stone scrolls.
The smaller upper vasque was removed, and replaced with an inverted vasque, which resembled a mushroom cap, and was covered with stone scales. When the water shot up and fell over the vasque, its flow is broken by the stones, causing it to gleam and sparkle. The final change was the removal of the coat of arms from the previous popes, replacing them with plaques honoring Pope Paul V. This fountain has no pump and the water was operated by gravity. This entailed a water source being higher than the fountain allowing the water to shoot up. The source of the Aqua Paola was on the Janiculum hill, which allowed the water to shoot 20 feet into the air.
The Square was decorated with only the Maderno Fountain for half a century. It also featured an obelisk that was raised by Pope Sixtus V. The southern part of the square was left empty, until 1667 when Pope Clement X commissioned Bernini to create a second fountain in the square. This fountain would follow the design of the earlier fountain, and would be completed in 1677. This allowed the square to maintain symmetry. Bernini was actually commissioned to re-create the square by Alexander VII, as soon as he was elected. Bernini, had to follow the detailed instructions of Alexander, and came up with an elliptical square that would be 240 meters wide by 196 meters long. The construction for the new square began in 1656 and would not be completed until 1667.
The square is bordered on both sides by semi-circular colonnades, which according to Bernini, represent the stretched arms of the church embracing the world. These colonnades were built in 1660, consisting of four rows with 284 Doric columns and 88 pilasters. This was created by Bernini and his students to represent the popes, martyrs and evangelists, as well as other religious figures. Bernini was a great sculpture and this is evident with his reconstruction of the square. This square can be filled with over 400,000 on special occasions, like elections and holidays.