Stand at the base of the ancient Egyptian Obelisk ‘The Witness’ in St. Peter’s Square and an overwhelming feeling starts to dawn on you. The vast colonnade seems to embrace you from both sides, even as you crane your neck to admire the imposing facade and the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. Awe-inspiring, breathtaking, speechless – a visit to the St. Peter’s Basilica will leave you with many emotions.
The largest church in the world, St. Peter’s Basilica is more than just the most important building in Christendom. It is a jewel within Vatican City from where Popes have spread the word of God throughout the world. The Basilica is a focal point of millions of pilgrims each year, but it is also a true cultural, historical and architectural landmark.
The classic Renaissance structure holds within itself treasures from millennia including paintings, sculptures, artefacts and the art decorated on the walls. A visit to St. Peter’s Basilica is a treat to the senses and the soul!
History of St. Peter’s Basilica
The story of St. Peter’s Basilica begins with the crucifixion of Peter, one of the apostles of Jesus, in 64 AD. He was crucified upside down on a cross in Circus of Nero, and buried nearby on what is now the Vatican Hill. Emperor Constantine The Great built the Old Basilica between 319 AD and 333 AD on the grounds of the burial spot of St. Peter. Later on, in the 16th Century at the behest of Pope Julius II, the current St. Peter’s Basilica was built.
St. Peter’s Basilica is currently a Papal Basilica and is famous for being the site of St. Peter’s Tomb and the Chair of St. Peter, which confers a spiritual authority to the Pope. However, it is not the official Basilica of the Pope, but all major Papal functions and events are conducted here due to its sheer size and importance.
St. Peter’s Basilica holds a lot of records including the largest church building in the world, second tallest building in Rome and the tallest dome in the world. Apart from that it is also conferred as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the wealth of art and culture it embodies and preserves.
St. Peter’s Basilica Architecture
The construction of St. Peter’s Basilica took over a century in the making! The planning of the Basilica started when Pope Julius II commissioned a competition to design the grandest building in Christendom. The winner of the competition was Donato Bramante, and the foundation stone was laid in 1506. A series of deaths and personnel changes led to the change of architects from Bramante to Raphael to eventually Michelangelo in 1547.
The final St. Peter's Basilica dome and the architecture are accredited to the brilliance of Michelangelo who based it on the designs of Bramante. The Basilica is built in the traditional Renaissance architecture and has been an inspiration for church buildings across the world. The iconic facade was designed by Maderno and remains an unforgettable memory in millions of pilgrims who visit it each year to see the Pope.
St. Peter’s Basilica Highlights