This was taken in front of St. Peter's Basilica as we awaited the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI. Every Wednesday, there's a Papal Audience in St. Peter Square.
Along the balustrade, on top of the façade are statues depicting Christ the Redeemer, flanked by his apostles. The place of Judas Iscariot is taken by St. John the Baptist.
Swiss Guards of the Holy See can be found mounting guard everywhere, especially whenever the pope makes public appearances. Their uniforms are made in the colors of the Medici dynasty: blue, red and yellow. But don't let the charming costumes fool you. The Pontifical Swiss Guard is charged with the security of the Vatican, and the Pope's personal safety.
The cobblestones found all over the Vatican, and indeed, Rome, are made of black porphyry tiles, and are called “Sanpietrini” in honor of St. Peter - San Pietro (Peter means rock in Italian).
From the central balcony, called the “Loggia of the Blessings” the new pope is announced: “Habemus Papam” (We have a Pope). The Urbi et Orbi blessing is also given from this window. Anyone who's watched “The Borgias” on TV will recognize this balcony from Season 1.
Two elliptical colonnades encircle St. Peter Square. They were designed by Bernini as a metaphorical representation of the “maternal arms of the mother church.” The left one is called “Charlemagne” and the right one is called “Constantine.” Every little thing has symbolism here, and you really have to be up on your history so you don't miss the nuances.
The obelisk in the center of the square was brought from Egypt in 37 B.C. and transferred to this site in 1586. It took 900 men and 140 horses to haul it into place. The bronze ball on top of the obelisk contains a relic of the True Cross.
Visitors from all over the world, the faithful, and the curious flock here every Wednesday for the Papal Audience. The place holds thousands, and, knowing that there would be a huge crowd, our expectations were low. Perhaps that is why it was so wonderful. There is a surprising amount of order and calm about this audience, despite the crowd. We felt welcomed and enveloped in the genuine warmth of the Pope and the pilgrims. As a catholic, I was moved. As a people-watcher, I had a ball!