Light and Shadows in Bernini's Oval of Saint Peter's Square

PHILICA Article number 540

5 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2016

Date Written: November 8, 2015


Gian Lorenzo Bernini planned Saint Peter’s Square with an oval part surrounded by a colonnade that was imagined as ‘the maternal arms of Mother Church’ embracing the crowd. The pivot of this masterpiece is an obelisk, which is also the gnomon of a huge sundial. With vertex at the obelisk, the azimuth spanned by sunrise throughout the year corresponds to the eastward entry end of the colonnade, as noted by writer and lecturer Robert Bauval. Besides the crowd then, Bernini’s colonnade is also embracing the light of the sun on its local horizon. In this Baroque architecture, also the shadows are playing a very important role. An example is given by those of the colonnade statues that move through the oval over the day.

Keywords: Solar Orientation, Solstices, Architectural Planning, Satellite Images, Google Earth.

Suggested Citation

Sparavigna, Amelia Carolina, Light and Shadows in Bernini's Oval of Saint Peter's Square (November 8, 2015). PHILICA Article number 540. Available at SSRN:

Amelia Carolina Sparavigna (Contact Author)

Polytechnic University of Turin ( email )

Corso Duca degli Abruzzi, 24
Torino, Torino 10129

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