Antonio Paolucci, who is also the director of the Vatican Museums, announced last week that the 284 columns and the 140 statues of the elliptical structure will undergo a restoration process that will last four years and cost 10-20 million euro ($13.9-$27.8 million).
"After more than 300 years, the signs of deterioration have become evident and it is necessary to intervene," Paolucci told Vatican Radio this week.
Bernini (1598-1680) began work in 1657 on the colonnade during the pontificate of Alexander VII. The architect took some 10 years to finish the project.
According to Paolucci, the restoration will focus on controlling rainwater flow, which will include repairing the roof and gutters. Sulfur deposits will be removed and the columns will be given protective treatments.
The work will be conducted in sections so that the square will never have to be closed, he affirmed.
Bishop Renato Boccardo, secretary of the Governor's Office of Vatican City State, said the Vatican did not want to allow "a structure of such symbolic value" to simply fall to pieces.
"From the beginning, the colonnade was envisioned and built with the idea of embracing the multitude of faithful that gather in the plaza," he explained. "As a sign of respect for what it represents for the more than nine million faithful who pass through it each year, we decided to intervene quickly."