Explain the symbolism of Bernini’s St. Peter’s Piazza, referring to the work to illustrate your explanation. (Where do you see the symbolism in the structure?)

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lprono eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gian Lorenzo Bernini is considered one of the highest examples of the Baroque style whose political message was to celebrate the greatness of the Roman Catholic Church to counter the attacks of the Reformation. St. Peter's was to be the material embodiment of this greatness and superiority so much so that no other Catholic church was allowed to be bigger. Bernini himself commented on the possible symbolism of his two colonnades, designed in the late 1640s, comparing them to open, "motherly arms" welcoming the believers to St. Peter's. The two colonnades are not join together on the side of the piazza opposite the basilica and thus do not seal it off from the rest of the urban space, inviting the pilgrims to enter. In addition to this "nurturing enclosure for the crowds of faithful", Marvin Trachtenberg and Isabelle Hyman point out that the colonnade contributed to the appeal of the Church on the masses by representing a dramatic stage onto which sacred processions and spectacles could effectively take place.