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

Scala Regia

Vatican Palace, Rome

The Scala Regia is the main entrance to the Vatican Palace. It is designed with a supreme knowledge of scenic effects.

Coming from the colonnades, one reaches it along a corridor. The corridor ends in about twenty steps, and there is a slight break just at the point where one enters at right angles from the galilee porch of St Peter's. So here two main directions meet.It was a master stroke of Bernini to place opposite the entrance from the church an equestrian monument to the Emperor Constantine. As we come up from the corridor it appears on the right and forces us to halt, before we enter the Royal Staircase itself.

The Scala Regia had to be fitted into an awkwardly-shaped area between church and palace.It is long, comparatively narrow, and has irregularly converging walls. Bernini turned all this to advantage by means of an ingenious tunnel-vaulted colonnade of diminishing size. The principle is that of vistas on the Baroque stage. Light coming from different directions is another means for dramatizing the ascent up the Royal Staircase. Finally, there is the decoration, the splendid angels, to complete this gorgeous overture to the Vatican Palace.

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