Explore the Ancient Statues at St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter's Basilica is the most well-known Renaissance-style church in Vatican City. One of the reasons for its popularity is the extensive art incorporated within its walls. It contains some of the best artworks not just in Rome, but world-wide. We've put together all the information you need to know about the St. Peter's Basilica statues and their fascinating stories.

About St. Peter’s Basilica Statues

St. Peter's Basilica Statues

Many of the statues inside and outside St. Peter’s Basilica were inspired by Renaissance architecture. A majority of the statues are portraits of Saints, Popes, and other important figures from the Christian sphere. Here’s a look at some of the most noteworthy statues at St. Peter’s Basilica.

St. Peter's Basilica Statues
St. Peter's Basilica Statues

The Pieta

The Pieta, created by the Italian master Michelangelo, is one of the most famous statues in the world. The Carrara marble structure shows Jesus after his crucifixion, on the lap of Mother Mary. It stands nearly 6 feet tall and exudes a monumental aura that captures the moment's sanctity, leaving its viewers in complete awe. 

Michelangelo's only signed sculpture from the late 15th century is the Pieta, which roughly translates to "Pity." As you enter St. Peter's Basilica, look for this magnificent statue in the first chapel on the right.

St. Peter's Basilica Statues

Monument to Pope Alexander VII

Bernini's final great work was the Monument to Pope Alexander VII, which he designed at the age of 80. It can be considered as one of the most important masterpieces in St. Peter’s Basilica history of statues. The pope kneels in prayer, surrounded by four female statues, each representing one of the Pope's favorite virtues: charity, prudence, justice, and truth.

The last one is particularly noteworthy because it holds an intriguing political message from the 1600s - ‘The truth is stepping onto a globe with easily identifiable countries.’ The winged skeleton that emerges from beneath a heavy marble drapery is the most startling aspect of the monument, with the skeleton being Death herself, holding a large hourglass as if to emphasize that the time of life has passed.

St. Peter's Basilica Statues

Monument to Innocent XII

Inspired by his idol, Innocent XI, Pope Innocent XII was also a reformist. Among many significant initiatives, he also worked towards creating judicial and economic justice for everyone, opened up a hospital, and built a palace for disabled people. 

The Monument to Innocent XII by Filippo Della Valle is a simple composition. It has an urn with the statue of the Pope, figures of Charity and Justice, and two angels at the top. They are placed in a higher position due to limited space. As a result, the monument-like effect is inevitably visible. In a peaceful but uncommunicative pose, the Pope is depicted seated, with the "Triregno" on his head and his right hand in the act of blessing.

St. Peter's Basilica Statues

Monument to Pope Pius VIII

A statue of Christ enthroned, as well as statues of St. Peter and Paul, flank the Pope as he kneels, with allegories representing Prudence and Justice. During the reign of the French in Italy in 1808, Pope Pius VIII was imprisoned for refusing to take Napoleon's oath of allegiance. He signed and approved the decrees of the Council of Baltimore (October 1829), which included the first formal gathering of the bishops of the United States.

Under the monument is a small door that leads to the Sacristy and Treasury Museum. The passage leading to the museum contains the list of all the Popes buried in St. Peter’s Basilica.

St. Peter's Basilica Statues

Monument to Benedict XIV

Pope Benedict XIV is seen rising from his throne to grant his blessings to all. Beneath him are two allegorical statues of Sacred Wisdom to the left and Disinterestedness to the right. Both these were sculpted by Gaspare Sibilla. 

A gilded sun adorns the first figure's breast, who holds a book in her right hand. A stout little angel that holds a cornucopia full of jewels and money flanks the second. Bracci created this piece with classical designs from the 17th-century, using multi-colored designs with pyramid-shaped arrangements.

St. Peter's Basilica Statues

Monument to Urban VIII

The pyramidal layout of Bernini's Monument to Pope Urban VIII is similar to that of Pope Paul III's tomb, but it is more harmonious. On a white marble, there is a bronze statue of the Pope who is giving his blessings to all. The various figures on the right and left have different meanings. The one on the left that is a child signifies Charity and the one on the right which has a sword and other weapons signifies Justice. For the very first time, a skeleton was used by Bernini to signify death.

Bernini included tiny depictions of Barberini’s Bees on this monument, something that can also be seen throughout the Basilica.

St. Peter's Basilica Statues

Statues on the Facade

The facade of St. Peter's Basilica is crowned by thirteen colossal statues. Between 1612 and 1614, a number of sculptors worked on these statues. 

St. Matthew by Bernardino Cennini, St. Thomas by Simeon Drouin, St. James the Great by Egidio Moretti, St. John the Baptist by Simeon Drouin, Christ the Redeemer by Cristoforo Stati, St. Andrew by Carlo Fancelli, St. John the Evangelist by Antonio Vals, and St. James the Great by Giuseppe Fontana are some of the statues of Facade that you must see on your visit  to the Basilica.

St. Peter's Basilica Statues

Statues of Founder Saints

Aside from its many Papal monuments, St. Peter’s Basilica also contains almost 40 statues of important founder Saints. These statues can be found all across the Basilica and are a homage to important figures in the history of the Church. Some of these important Saints are St. Peter of Alcantara, St. John of God, St. William, St. Dominic, St. Paul of the Cross, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Teresa of Jesus, and St. John Eudes.

St. Peter's Basilica Statues

Discover St. Peter’s Basilica Statues

St. Peter’s Basilica has been an architectural marvel for many centuries now. On your visit to the Basilica, take the time to observe the intricate details of these ancient statues. They truly are timeless masterpieces.

Visit St. Peter's Basilica

Frequently Asked Questions About St. Peter's Basilica Statues

Q. What is St. Peter’s Basilica famous for?

A. St. Peter’s Basilica is famous for its architecture, art, statues, and monuments.

Q. What are the most famous St. Peter’s Basilica statues?

A. The Pieta, Monument to Alexander VII, and Saint Peter are the most well-known St. Peter’s Basilica statues.

Q. Who designed the Pieta?

A. The Pieta was designed by Michelangelo.

Q. When were the St. Peter’s Basilica statues built?

A. St. Peter’s Basilica statues date back to the 15th and 16th centuries.

Q. How many St. Peter’s Basilica statues are there in total?

A. There are almost 80 statues and monuments inside and outside St. Peter’s Basilica, excluding the 140 statues in St. Peter’s Square.

Q. How many St. Peter’s Basilica monuments are there in total?

A. There are about 25 monuments in total inside St. Peter’s Basilica.

Q. When was the bronze statue of St. Peter built?

A. The bronze statue of St. Peter allegedly dates back to the 5th century, however, after speculation, it is believed to date back to the 1200s.

Q. Can I take pictures of the St. Peter’s Basilica statues?

A. Yes. You can take pictures of the St. Peter’s Basilica statues with a handheld camera or phone.

Q. Who designed the Monument to Alexander VII?

A. Monument to Alexander VII was the final work of Bernini.

Q. How many St. Peter’s Basilica statues are there on the facade?

A. There are 13 statues on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Q. How many St. Peter’s Basilica statues were built of the founder Saints?

A. There are over 40 St. Peter’s Basilica statues of its founder Saints.

Q. How many statues are part of St. Peter’s Square?

A. St. Peter’s Square consists of 140 statues of Saints and martyrs.

Q. Who designed the St. Peter’s Square statues?

A. The St. Peter’s Square statues were designed by Lorenzo Morelli.

Q. Can I see the St. Peter’s Basilica statues?

A. Yes. Everyone can take a look at all the St. Peter’s Basilica statues on their visit.