The old faded film negative was one of several shots my father took in the summer of 1956 in Rome, where we had stayed for two days. From the colonnades in the background, the obelisk in the middle of the two fountains in the picture, I could tell that the photo was taken in St. Peter Square by the Vatican enclave of Rome. There was a person in the foreground of the negative film, but I could not tell if the person was a man or a woman from the discolored negative. I was hoping to see either my mother or father in the photo and started looking carefully at the details of the subject. The body of the subject resembled a woman's body, but the baggy pants and bulky shoes were unusual for women’s wear at that time. It seemed like the person had a camera bag or something similar in his right hand. I got some answers to my question after three weeks of waiting, when I finally received the cleaned and digitized photos of the negatives, as well as an enlarged, cropped and printed copy of the man in Piazza di St. Pietro.
Yes the mystery person was a man, looking in his late forties, but he was nobody that I knew of. He was well groomed, had stylish black trousers and a white long sleeved shirt with the collar wide open on the hot summer day. His brown shoes were open in the front, to allow his toes to stick out. I still could not figure out what the small box he was carrying in his hand was, with cords hanging down. There were other people in the picture, a group of apparent tourists walking towards the obelisk. A man and a woman on a scooter by the fountain, the front of a black automobile looking like a 1950ies Hudson and other men and women mostly in white outfits.
After I examined the photo I concluded that my father took the shot by centering the Obelisk in the middle and the Colonnades in the background.The mystery man was not the focus, but he happened to be there in the center of the picture just like the obelisk. The man in St. Peter’s Square never knew he was in the picture on that hot summer day and we will never know who he was. Time was frozen on that day in St. Peter’s square and people who happened to be there had become permanent fixtures of a second in history.
Cleaned, restored negative film of St. Peter's Square 1956
Mystery Man of St.Peter's Square 1956
THE COLONNADES , OBELISK AND FOUNTAINS OF ST PETER’S SQUARE
One good thing which came out from the photo of the mystery man at St. Pietro of summer of 1956, was the knowledge I have learned about the colonnades, the obelisk and the two fountains of the square.
The facade of St. Peter’s Basilica was completed after almost a century‘s hard work. To glorify the Basilica, the colonnades were designed and built between 1656 and 1667 with the initiative of an art loving Pope; Alexander VII and designed and built by architect Gian Loronzo Bernini. The oval St. Peter’s Square is closed by two semi-circular particoes with 284 Doric columns in four rowes behind each other, creating three parallel lanes between them. The columns are 16 meters high and were made from 44 000 cubic ft. of travertine stone brought here from Tivoli, 30 kilometers away from Rome. The columns are decorated on top with140 statues, each little over 3 meters in height and representing Apostle St. Paul, saints of Catholicism, popes, martyrs of the Roman Empire and 38 women. The Colonnades also represent the border between the Vatican and Italy.
The Obelisk was originally erected in Heliopolis, by an unknown Pharaoh of the 5th Dynasty of Egypt in the 13th Century B.C. It was moved to the Julian Forum in Alexandria in 37 A.D. by the Emperor Augustus of the Roman Empire. But shortly after, the third Roman Emperor Caligula destroyed the Julian Forum and brought the obelisk to Rome and placed it on the central spina, which was situated to the left of the present Saint Peter’s Basilica. Here in this arena, to be called Circus Neronis later on, Emperor Nero was going to entertain himself with brutal gladiators, war games and execute Christians. In 1586 engineer-architect Domenico Fontona moved the obelisk to its present position. When Benini designed St Peter’s Square almost a century later, he left the Obelisk in its current place, but used the Obelisk as the center monument of the Piazza. The Obelisk is made from red granite stone and is 25 meters tall, but with its base, supported by four bronze lions, and the cross on top, it’s height reaches 41 meters.
THE TWO FOUNTAINS
The older of the two fountains in St Peter's Square lies to the North of Piazza and is called the Maderno Fountain. It was built by Carlo Maderno between 1612 and 1614, in the place of an older fountain built in 1490 during the time of Pope Innocent VIII. Maderno redesigned the new fountain from base to the two vasquez and ornamented the pedestal with four stone scrolls using some parts of the old fountain. Like all the other fountains of the time the fountain was not operated by any pumps but was using gravity as the power instead. The source of water being higher than the fountain resulted in the water shooting upwards.
The twin fountain on the Piazza di St Pietro was built by Lorenzo Bernini in 1677 and is named after his creator.
May, 24 2022
Photos: Ozmeral Family Archives
St. Peter's Square and Basilica, 1909 Source Wikepedia