BERNINI, Gian Lorenzo
(b. 1598, Napoli, d. 1680, Roma)

Scala Regia

1663-66
Photo
Vatican Palace, Rome

As part of the rearrangement of the space in front of St Peter's, Bernini also constructed a new ceremonial staircase leading to the Vatican Palace. The Scala Regia was conceived as an extension of the northern corridor of the piazza retta at the level of the portico of the basilica. Confined both by the ancient site of the entrance to the palace and by the encroachment of the existing buildings, Bernini once again solved by optical and scenographic means problems that could not be solved spatially. The 90° turn that has to be made between the portico and the first flight of steps in the monumental staircase is made into a spectacular scenic feature by the placing of the equestrian statue of Constantine the Great, which confronts the visitor on entering the vestibule. The long staircase is broken halfway up by a landing flooded with light, and twin rows of columns, free-standing at the bottom of the stair, attached to the walls and diminished in size at the top, effectively disguise the steepness of the ascent and the fact that the walls converge.

View the ground plan and cross section of the Scala Regia in the Vatican Palace.