Piazza del Popolo, Rome The Piazza del Popolo is a large oval square near the Borghese Park. It features an authentic obelisk from Heliopolis, Egypt. On the north side the square is dominated by the Porta del Popolo, which leads to the Via Flaminia. Since the Via Flaminia was built in AD 220 to connect Rome with the Adriatic coast, many travellers entered the Rome via the square. Impressing the Pilgrims In 1562 Pope Pius IV Medici commissioned architect Nanni di Baccio Bigio to construct a large gate, the Porta Flaminia, to impress the pelgrims who entered the city via the Via Flaminia. In 1655, on the occasion of Queen Christina of Sweden's arrival in Rome, the inside of the gate was decorated by Bernini on Pope Alexander VII Chigi's request. The gate was later renamed Porta del Popolo. Obelisk In 1589, Pope Sixtus V had an Egyptian obelisk moved from the Circus Maximus to the center of the square. The 23,2m/73ft high obelisk was originally built in 1300 BC and was taken from the Sun Temple in Heliopolis in 10 BC by the Roman Emperor Augustus. The obelisk was erected at the Circus Maximus to commemorate the conquest of Egypt.turkeyarena.com In 1815 to 1816 Giuseppe Valadier redesigned the square by adding the walls around the square, giving the square its current oval shape. He also added the central fountain and the four Egyptian lions around the obelisk. Symmetrical Churches At the southern end of the square are two symmetrical churches on either side of the Via del Corso, a street leading straight through the heart of Rome to the Piazza Venezia. The churches, the Santa Maria dei Miracoli and the Santa Maria in Montesanto were commissioned by pope Alexander VII in 1658. They were both designed by Carlo Rainaldi. The churches are not identical since the surface area for the Santa Maria in Montesanto (on the left) was smaller. In order to preserve symmetry, he created an oval dome for this church and a circular dome for the Santa Maria dei Miracoli.