The Vatican has issued special stamps to help raise funds to restore the 17th-century colonnade surrounding St Peter’s Square.
Pope Alexander VII commissioned Baroque master Gian Lorenzo Bernini to design the colonnade in 1656. The complex restoration project to secure, clean and treat the colonnade’s 284 marble columns, as well as the 140 statues of the saints above, began in 2009. Two 17th-century fountains on either side of the obelisk in the centre of the square also require restoration.
The Vatican’s Philatelic and Numismatic Office, which sells commemorative coins and stamps, has issued a special stamp and philatelic certificate costing €20 to support the restoration works. Some 150,000 copies of the souvenir certificate have been printed. If all of them are sold, the Vatican hopes to raise €3 million for the restoration project.
The certificate is available in two versions. One bears the words ‘Officium Philatelicum et Nomismaticum’, and two €10 stamps showing Pope Benedict XVI’s coat of arms and the seal of Pope Alexander VII. The second version can be personalized and lacks the ‘Officium Philatelicum et Nomismaticum’ wording, which will be replaced with the full name of the person contributing to the restoration.
The restoration work is taking place in sections, following the same technique used by Bernini, in order to reduce the impact on visiting pilgrims and tourists. The Vatican estimated the project would take four years, but now it is slated to finish in 2015. Visitors to St Peter’s Square can see a panel on one side of the colonnade, asking them to help “Restore the colonnade with a stamp”.
The Vatican has operated its own postal service and issued its own postage stamps since 1929.