Gianlorenzo Bernini and the Completion of St. Peter's
The long project to rebuild St. Peter's in an appropriately monumental style came to its climax in the 17th century during the height of the Counter-reformation: that period of reconstruction and reorganization of the Roman Catholic Church that was the result of soul-searching after the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. At the Council of Trent in the later 16th century, the Church determined how it would make itself more accountable and more attractive to its members, and how it would reinforce its historical authority and continuity from early Christian and Roman times.
Bernini's contribution to the program of St. Peter's was first of all one of finishing the furnishing and decoration of the interior. This consisted of three major projects: (a) the cathedra petri reliquary and papal altar in the eastern apse, (b) the baldacchino over the high altar marking the location of the tomb of St. Peter, and (c) the statues in the piers supporting the domes.
He also contributed to the overall project through his design of the Great Piazza in front of the basilica and of the Scala Regia, the stairway leading from the Vatican apartments to the Narthex of the basilica.
The cathedra petri Reliquary and Papal Altar
The Baldacchino and the Pier Sculptures
The Great Piazza
The Scala Regia