One of the most important Baroque artists of Rome, Gianlorenzo Bernini worked as a sculptor, painter, and architect while in the Eternal City in the mid 17th century. From the galleries of the Borghese Museum to Saint Peter's Square and Basilica, Bernini's magnificent sculptures and art works appear in some of Rome's top attractions.
Following we explore Bernini's greatest hits in Rome and where to find them. See Top Renaissance and Baroque artists of Rome for where to see the works of more great artists.
The sweeping, symmetrical, elliptical-shaped colonnade that astounds you as you enter Piazza San Pietro, or Saint Peter's Square, is thanks to Gianlorenzo Bernini. Commissioned by Pope Alexander VII, Bernini began work on the piazza in 1656 and completed it in 1667. Four rows of Doric columns make up two sides of the square. Atop the colonnades are 140 statues depicting saints, martyrs, popes, and founders of religious orders within the Catholic Church.
Some of the most iconic examples of emotive Baroque sculpture were created by Bernini for Cardinal Scipione Borghese, an avid patron of the arts and the nephew of Pope Paul V. Visit the Borghese Museum, the erstwhile summer mansion of the Cardinal, and you can view Bernini's magnificent Apollo and Daphne, The Rape of Proserpina, and the artist's interpretation of David.
Tip: If you want to visit the Borghese Gallery, reserved tickets are mandatory. Buy Borghese Gallery tickets in advance from Select Italy.
A number of Rome's beautiful fountains can be credited to Bernini. His most famous is the Four Rivers Fountain in Piazza Navona, a fanciful work that depicts the four largest known rivers in the world. Others include the Fontana del Moro (the Moor Fountain), also in Piazza Navona; Triton and the "Bee" Fountains in Piazza Barberini (near the Via Veneto); and the Fontana della Barcaccia at the foot of the Spanish Steps.
The Bernini work in the Capitoline Museums that gets the most attention is his sculpture of Medusa. This marble depicts the Greek Gorgon with dozens of serpents seemingly writhing and in-motion on her head - a fascinating feat considering the artist's material.
Santa Maria della Vittoria
Fans of Dan Brown's book and movie Angels and Demons will want to track down the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, site of one of the suspenseful scenes in the story. Inside the inconspicuous church is the Bernini work the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, a confection that depicts Saint Teresa in a rapturous moment as she is visited by an angel.
One of the grandest decorations in the spectacular Saint Peter's Basilica is the canopy, known as the baldachin or baldacchino. Bernini designed this bronze canopy with the twisting columns at the behest of Pope Urban VIII. Legend portends that the mass quantities of bronze that were required for building the baldachin were pilfered from the ceiling and exterior of the ancient Pantheon.
The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, or Saint Mary Major, is one of the four papal basilicas of Rome and the Vatican City and one of the top churches to see in Rome. Visitors on the trail of Bernini will want to visit it to see his tomb because the church is the artist's final resting place.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated and edited by Martha Bakerjian.