St. Peter's Basilica History

History of St. Peter's Basilica | Timeline, Facts & More

St. Peter's Basilica

None of the city's magnificent cathedrals can compare to St Peter's Basilica, Italy's largest, richest, and most stunning basilica. It was consecrated in Rome in 1626 after 120 years of construction on top of a 4th-century church. Its opulent interior has a plethora of spectacular works of art, including some of Italy's most renowned masterpieces by Bernini and Michelangelo. More than anything else, St Peter's Basilica is steeped in history. Read on to delve deeper into its rich past.

Timeline

64 CE: This was the year that Saint Peter was crucified and buried at Vatican Hill.

326 - 333: Old St. Peter's Basilica was built on the site of St. Peter's Tomb under the reign of Emperor Constantine.

333 - 1505: During the Middle Ages, Old St. Peter's Basilica flourished and became the most important pilgrimage site in the Western world.

1505: The old church was demolished under the orders of Pope Julius II. He decided to built a new church in the place of the old one.

1506: Construction of the new St. Peter's Basilica began.

1626: The new church was officially established at the heart of Vatican City.

History of St. Peter's Basilica Explained

St. Peter's Basilica History

Circus of Nero

64 CE

Around the year 64 CE, there was a massive fire in Rome that destroyed the majority of the city. Many historians claim that Emperor Nero was behind the fire. Nero, however, blamed the Christian sect for the fire. He believed that their refusal to worship the Roman Gods was what led them to start the fire. This led to a horrible series of persecutions of innocent Christians. Nero held these executions at the Circus, for the public to see and be entertained. During this time, Saint Peter was conducting his sermons in Rome which led to his crucifixion on the orders of Emperor Nero. The Circus of Nero existed where St. Peter’s Square is today.

St. Peter's Basilica History
St. Peter's Basilica History
St. Peter's Basilica History
St. Peter's Basilica History

Collapse & Rebuilding of the Basilica

1505 AD

Old St Peter's Basilica, like many medieval churches, eventually fell into disrepair. Nearly 1,200 years after its completion, Old St. Peter's Basilica was in a horrible state after serving as one of Rome's most prominent churches. One of the building's side walls was said to be tilting about 6 feet off the wall, indicating that it was on the edge of collapsing. Many Popes attempted to restore parts of the basilica during the next few years to preserve the priceless edifice, but all of their attempts failed. Finally, Pope Julius II, who reigned from 1503 to 1513, decided to demolish the structure and replace it with a new basilica.

St. Peter's Basilica History

The Era of Construction

St. Peter's Basilica History

St. Peter’s Basilica Today

St. Peter's Basilica History
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Small-Group St. Peter's Basilica Guided Tour

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St. Peter’s Basilica Dome: Guided Tour

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St Peter's Basilica Dome Climb with Tour of Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel

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English Guided Tour of the St. Peter's Basilica and the Cupola

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Frequently Asked Questions About the History of St. Peter's Basilica

Q. Who built Old St. Peter's Basilica?

A. Old St. Peter's Basilica was commissioned under the direction of Emperor Constantine I.

Q. When was Old St. Peter's Basilica built?

A. Old St. Peter's Basilica was built around 349 AD.

Q. What happened to Old St. Peter's Basilica?

A. After many years, Old St. Peter's Basilica began falling apart, leaving it on the verge of collapse. The decision was made to demolish it.

Q. When was the new St. Peter's Basilica built?

A. Construction of the new St. Peter's Basilica began in 1506.

Q. Where did St. Peter die?

A. Saint Peter died on a site called Nero's Circus, which stood in the place of the current St. Peter's Square.

Q. Where was St. Peter buried?

A. St. Peter was buried on Vatican Hill.

Q. Where is St. Peter's Tomb?

A. The Tomb of St. Peter is below the current St. Peter's Basilica inside the Vatican Necropolis.

Q. Why was the new St. Peter's Basilica built?

A. Old St. Peter's Basilica was on the verge of collapse. No amount of repairs were able to restore the Church and so it was decided that a new Basilica be built in its place.

Q. Who built St. Peter's Basilica?

A. St. Peter's Basilica was commissioned by Pope Julius II.

Q. Who designed St. Peter's Basilica?

A. Many architects were involved in the construction of St. Peter's Basilica, including Bernini & Michelangelo.

Q. Why is St. Peter's Basilica important?

A. St. Peter's Basilica is the final resting place of the Apostle himself. It is the most important Church in Christendom.

Q. Can I visit St. Peter's Basilica?

A. Yes. You can visit St. Peter's Basilica for free. You can also book guided tours for a more wholesome experience.