The restoration of the Bernini colonnade and other historic pieces in St. Peter’s Square will be finished by Easter, in time for the canonizations of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII.
According to an article in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano by Vatican Museums director, Prof. Antonio Paolucci, “the time schedule…provided for the completion of the construction in time for Easter of 2014 and for the great spring canonizations of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, events that will bring millions of pilgrims to Rome, was observed even in advance.”
The intensive project was begun in November 2008, and included restoration of 284 columns, 140 statues, and 44,000 cubic meters of travertine.
Paolucci, who oversaw the project, noted that in addition to cleaning all the surfaces, the restoration secured many elements of the construction that were “disjointed and in most cases unsafe.”
Designed and built by Gian Lorenzo Bernini from 1656-1673 for Pope Alexander VII, the colonnades that encircle St. Peter’s Square are intended to symbolize the universal embracing arms of the Catholic Church.
“It is an architectural structure that multiplies the vanishing points, and then the perspective effects, so that those who enter St. Peter's Square have the impression of being inside a forest of columns that embraces you from all sides without defining its borders,” explained Paolucci.
The saint statues atop the colonnade include various men and women founders, doctors, martyrs, confessors and virgins.
“They are the heavenly army of the Catholic Church, representing the eternal and triumphant Christianity that participates in the joy and faith of the people when the Pope of Rome gathers them in the square dedicated to the Prince of the Apostles.”
Paolucci noted that the travertine sculptures set against the backdrop of the Roman sky “change color according to the hours and seasons.”
This kind of dramatic effect was intended by Bernini, who saw the project as an opportunity to build the “great theatre of the colonnade” that would have “high symbolic value” and evoke “extraordinary emotional involvement.”
The years-long project has aimed to restore the edifice to its original grandeur.
Recent renovations, which include work on the two fountains in the square, have cost about 14 million Euro. According to a 2011 article in L’Osservatore Romano, Mr. Pier Carol Cuscianna, Director of Technical Services at the Governorate of the Vatican City State, which oversaw the work, said that the project was “undertaken thanks to generous sponsors and to Divine Providence.” In 2012, the Vatican issued a limited edition of papal stamps to raise revenue for the work.