A Detailed Look at What's Inside St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Basilica is a brilliant example of the rich cultural heritage that exists in Italy. It is an important symbol for Catholicism and has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1980 due to its incredible architecture and history. Inside St. Peter's Basilica, you will find some amazing sights such as the Tomb of St. Peter, the iconic Dome, Bernini's Baldacchino, and so much more. Keep reading to find out what's inside this iconic Basilica.
What is St. Peter's Basilica?
What's Inside St. Peter's Basilica?
Inside St. Peter's Basilica is a multitude of intricate structures and artworks that add to its overall magnificence. Other than its main highlights like the Dome, St. Peter's Tomb, and the Baldacchino, the basilica holds so much more for the beholder including chapels, altars, monuments, tombs, and more.
Pieta is a famous Renaissance sculpture that is attributed to Michelangelo Buonarroti, created between the years 1499 and 1500. Housed in St. Peter’s Basilica, the sculpture is a beautifully detailed representation of the Virgin Mary mourning over the body of Jesus Christ. It is carved from a single block of Carrara marble and was one of Michelangelo's earliest and most outstanding works. Although the artist created many more pieces with the same theme, the Pieta was the first of its kind. You can spot the sculpture to the right of the main entrance as you enter the basilica.
The Confessio is a small but grand altar designed by Carlo Maderno between the years 1615 to 1617. The semi-circular space lies directly in front of the Tomb of St. Peter. The altar of the Confessio is located inside the Vatican Grottoes and can be accessed via a staircase.
Althought the Confessio has existed since the foundation of the basilica was laid, the many additional decorations were added during the reign of Pope Clement VIII and Pope Paul V.
Chapel of St. Sebastian | Tomb of John Paul II
Close to Michelangelo's Pieta, is the Chapel of St. Sebastian, holding the Tomb of John Paul II. St. Sebastian was a martyr from the late Roman Empire. You will notice a massive mosaic above the altar, which was created by Pietro Paolo Christofari during the 17th century.
Below the altar lies the body of John Paul II. John Paul was the second longest serving Pope, whose Papacy extended from 1978 till 2005. His tomb was initially a part of the Vatican Grottoes and was later moved to the chapel in 2011.
Monument to Pope Alexander VII
Pope Alexander VII, born Fabio Chigi, was the reigning pope from 1655 to 1667. One of the most famous monuments inside St. Peter's Basilica, the Monument to Pope Alexander VII was the work of the legendary artist Bernini. He completed this structure in the year 1678, when he was 80 years old. Alexander VII was the Pope who commissioned Bernini to build the colonnades of St. Peter's Square.
Below the monument is a small door which leads to one of the exit's of the Basilica.
Bronze Statue of St. Peter
Along the nave of the Basilica is the famous black statue of St. Peter, dating back to the 5th century. It depicts St. Peter sitting on a marble chair, dressed in his Papal attire. His left hand holds the keys of heaven, while his right hand is giving a blessing. The entire structure is made of bronze.
There will most definitely be a line of people queuing up in front of the statue to receive blessings from the Apostle. Most people generally kiss the right foot of the statue, leaving it quite worn out after so many years.
Statue of St. Longinus
St. Longinus was a Roman centurion who lived during the time of Christ. His actual name was unknown and so he was named Longinus. It is believed that he was the man who pierced the body of Christ from the side with a lance. Christ allegedly suffered his last five wounds because of Longinus' lance. These are referred to as the 'Five Holy Wounds' of Christ.
The Bible tells us that St. Longinus' life was filled with darkness after the death of Christ which led him to convert to Christianity.
The interior of St. Peter's Basilica is filled with artworks created in Renaissance and Baroque style. Some of the most famous masterpieces include Michelangelo's Pieta, Bernini's Baldacchino, and the Chair of St. Peter. The church also consists of many mosaics and glass windows, one of which is above the Chair of St. Peter, depicting the dove as a Holy Spirit.
Although many artists were involved in creating the artworks inside the Basilica, the works of Bernini, Maderno, and Michelango stand out among the rest.
Understanding the Floor Plan of St. Peter's Basilica
What's Below St. Peter's Basilica?
Below St. Peter's Basilica lies an ancient burial site dating back to the 1st century. It is believed that this is also where St. Peter himself was laid to rest. Other than the many tombs inside, this area also holds ancient mosaics and structures from that era.
he Vatican Grottoes are a group of underground tombs that lie below Saint Peter's Basilica, which contain the remains of many former Popes. A grotto is a sort of cave that in ancient times was used to bury the deceased. St. Peter's Basilica houses the tombs of 91 Popes, a few church dignitaries, monarchs, and other important figures from Roman history.
Some noteworthy tombs that you will find inside are of St. Peter, John Paul II, Queen Charlotte of Cyprus, Queen Christina of Sweden, Pope Julius II, and many more. You will also find a set of archaeological rooms, chapels, and monuments inside the Vatican Grottoes.
St. Peter's Basilica Tours
Frequently Asked Questions About What's Inside St. Peter's Basilica
A. The interiors of St. Peter's Basilica were primarily designed by Michelangelo, Maderno, Bramante, and Bernini.
A. The Dome of St. Peter's Basilica was designed by Michelangelo.
A. The Pieta is a famous sculpture designed by Michelangelo inside St. Peter's Basilica.
A. St. Peter's Baldacchino was designed by Bernini.
A. St. Peter's Chair was designed by Bernini.
A. The Tomb of St. Peter lies below the Basilica on the level of the Vatican Grottoes.
A. Yes. The Vatican Grottoes are inside St. Peter's Basilica.
A. Yes. The inside of St. Peter's Basilica is accessible to the public.