Can you find all the optical illusions on the façade and dome?

Discover the top 3 optical illusions of St. Peter’s façade and dome

St. Peter’s Square:

Rome, St. Peter’s square. The scene in front of you is the same of any other day: thousands of tourists diligently follow the procedures to enter the basilica. They line up under the portico built by Gianlorenzo Bernini to pass the security check or to reach the other side of the square.

During summer and spring you can get amused by the improvised dressing techniques flaunted by the most daring visitors. Due to the “rules” imposed on guests to enter St. Peter, people tend to get even more emotional.

Everyone – believers and not – are forced to “think” about their outfit before going to St. Peter. And this is when you find yourself admiring the most unlikely outfits: shawls aiming at covering exaggerated necklines; sarongs on too-uncovered legs and so on.

This is St. Peter at a first moment: an international human flow of people talking, taking pictures and oddly dressing up. To step into this square means being part of this show: the tangible demonstration of the catholic thought in the urban area.

The Façade:

Then, the eyes are inevitably caught by the majesty of the architecture, the surrounding space and the expertise of those artists like Michelangelo and Bernini who have contributed to the creation of this masterpiece.

It is impossible to look away from that beautiful cupola: the symbol of the Vatican City and the most beautiful artistic creation of all times.

However, the more you get close to it, the more it gets hidden by the façade built by Carlo Maderno. When you reach the entrance, the only visible thing about this symbol of beauty and perfection is that golden sphere supporting the cross.

In the far 1962, critics from all over the world talked about a crime committed against the Cupola. “An enormous error on the most important church of Christianity“.

The top 3 optical illusions:

But they were wrong. It takes a bit of time, but if you pay attention to this “wall” you will find that it is a living being playing with your brain and your eyes. Ready to discover its top 3 optical illusions? Let’s start!

1. First illusion:

The first task is to focus on the main entrance. Can you see that group of columns crowding near the main door? If you look carefully you will notice that they have a different color and they are differently hit by the light. Here is the first optical illusion of Maderno!

His façade plays with light and the distance between the columns has been mathematically calculated to make them look three-dimensional, based on projections and geometric evaluations.

2. Second illusion:

Did you notice that those same columns and that part of the façade are convex? Probably not, because you won’t notice it until you get close! This shape not only makes it possible to play with the light but it is also perfect to embrace the Cupola and to follow its curve lines.

3. Third illusion:

This time, you need to step back and go in the exact center of the square. Right behind the obelisco. Identify three elements of the façade: the golden sphere on the top of the Cupola and the two keystones of the arches.

Once you’re done you may be able to draw a triangle whose sides touch the most decorated attic’s windows, the vertex is the golden sphere of the Cupola and the decoration of the tympanum represents the exact center.

Now, the proportion theory suggests that if we change our point of view this ideal “drawing” changes accordingly. But this is not the case.

Regardless of your observation position, this triangle is still present and it is always possible to immagine this pyramid! The optical illusion is due to those weird, different windows on the façade: their sloped sides makes the front of the basilica “mentally itinerant“.

This means that they are conceived to “move” together  with the observer’s eyes and to create the illusion that the Cupola follows the steps of the observer, “moving” to the right or to the left between the statues’ heads.

Have you ever noticed these optical illusions? Did you manage to notice them during your last trip in Rome? Let us know!

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