New phase of restoration begins on colonnade
St Peter’s Square will soon look
exactly as it did in the 1600s
In 30 months St Peter’s Square will return to being the square that was conceived, commissioned and built in the second half of the 1600s. Work has already begun on the Bernini colonnade. The huge monument in travertine will soon be restored to its original splendour for Rome and the world. It is one of the most important Baroque symbols, outstanding not only in the context of architecture and urban planning — as a space for public religious celebrations — but also as a highly allegorical work of art, suggesting the ecumenical embrace of all peoples by the universal Church.
The purpose of this immense undertaking is to restore all the architectural and decorative elements in the square. The restoration will involve 284 columns, 92 pillars, 140 statues, six elevated papal coats of arms, 1,200 meters of balustrade and as much cornice, as well as 3,400 sq.m. of the hemicycles coffered ceiling.
Then there are the famous twin fountains — the Clementina and the Gregoriana — and, of course, the granite obelisk from Egypt, 42 meters tall, which Sixtus v had erected in 1586 in the centre of St Peter’s Square. Mr Pier Carlo Cuscianna, Director of Technical Services at the Governorate, says that the 19th-century lamp posts around the obelisk are also to be restored.
Two sections of the restoration have already been completed and new scaffolding is being erected for the restoration of the adjacent sections. As is well known, the colonnade is made up of four rows, each of which is composed of pillars four deep, including the respective statues. The hemicycle on the left will duly be completed, up to the point where it joins the Charlemagne Wing.
This enormous technical project, “undertaken thanks to generous sponsors and to Divine Providence” said Mr Cuscianna, “will require about two and a half years to complete and will involve the combined organization of the administrative offices of the Governorate of Vatican City State”. The overall responsibility for the work has been assumed by the Technical Services, with all the engineers and architects concerned in the specific sections that are being checked, including its planning and execution.
The scientific, artistic, historical and monumental aspects will be handled by the Vatican Museums, directed by Prof. Antonio Paolucci with the cooperation of a large group of expert restorers, specialized departments, and researchers from the Superintendence of the Architectural Heritage of Vatican City State. The Vatican State’s Accounting and Legal Offices will be responsible for funding the enterprise and its execution. The general restoration and the interventions have been tendered to the Associazione Temporanea di Imprese: Italiana Costruzioni and Fratelli Navarra which, was chosen from the preselected building firms as guaranteeing the best results.
Mr Cuscianna emphasizes that the most significant contribution to the project has been made by Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, former President of the Governorate, who as helmsman has “kept a steady course in these times of turbulent economic and financial storms”, and Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, General Secretary, in “guiding and coordinating this long and arduous interdisciplinary undertaking”.
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