Saint Peters – The open space which lies before the basilica was redesigned by Gian Lorenzo Bernini from 1656 to 1667, under the direction of Pope Alexander VII, as an appropriate forecourt, designed “so that the greatest number of people could see the Pope give his blessing, either from the middle of the façade of the church or from a window in the Vatican Palace” (Norwich 1975 p 175). Bernini had been working on the interior of St. Peter’s for decades; now he gave order to the space with his renowned colonnades, using the Tuscan form of Doric, the simplest order in the classical vocabulary, not to compete with the palace-like façade by Carlo Maderno, but he employed it on an unprecedented colossal scale to suit the space and evoke emotions of awe.
The site’s possibilities were under many constraints from existing structures (illustration, right). The massed accretions of the Vatican Palace crowded the space to the right of the basilica’s façade; the structures needed to be masked without obscuring the papal apartments. The obelisk marked a center, and a granite fountain by Carlo Maderno stood to one side: Bernini made the fountain appear to be one of the foci of the ellipse embraced by his colonnades and eventually matched it on the other side, in 1675, just five years before his death. The trapezoidal shape of the piazza, which creates a heightened perspective for a visitor leaving the basilica and has been praised as a masterstroke of Baroque theater (illustration, below right), is largely a product of site constraints.
The Roman Forum, also known by its original Latin designation (Latin: Forum Romanum, Italian: Foro Romano), is located between the Palatine Hill and the Capitoline Hill of the city of Rome, Italy. Citizens of the ancient city referred to the location as the “Forum Magnum” or just the “Forum“. It is part of the centralised area around which the ancient Roman civilization developed. The oldest and most important structures of the ancient city were located in or near the Forum. These include its ancient former royal residency the Regia as well as the surrounding complex of the Vestal Virgins, both of which were rebuilt after the rise of imperial Rome. The kingdom’s earliest shrines and temples were located on the forum’s western edge. These shrines developed into the Republic’s formal Comitium, where the Senate, as well as Republican government began. The Senate House, government offices, Tribunals, religious monuments, memorials and statues cluttered the area. Over time the archaic Comitium would be replaced by the larger Forum, moving government to the Basilica Aemilia. 80 years later the Basilica Julia would be built along with the new Curia Julia moving both the judicial offices and the senate itself. The Forum would serve as the new city square where the people of Rome could gather for political, judicial and religious ritual in greater number. The Forum became the economic hub of the city, as well as the center of the Kingdom, Republic and Empire.