St Peter's Basilica | Vatican City | The Greatest Church in Christendom
Stand at the base of the ancient Egyptian Obelisk 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 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. A focal point of millions of pilgrims each year, the Basilica is also a cultural, historical, and architectural landmark, which holds within itself treasures from millennia including paintings, sculptures, artifacts and more.
What is St. Peter's Basilica?
St. Peter's Basilica is a Rennaisance style church in Vatican City. The basilica was built according to tradition above the burial site of St. Peter, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus and the first Bishop of Rome. To maintain this tradition, Popes are now buried within the basilica.
Regarded as one of the holiest sites in Christendom, it was built to replace the Old St. Peter's Basilica between 1506 and 1626. It was designed by the greatest Old Masters of the time, including Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
Today, the church serves as a symbol of Rennaissance architecture, as well as being an integral site of pilgrimage, it is a papal basilica and not a cathedral, since it is not the seat of a bishop. The Arch Basilica of St. John Lateran is actually the cathedral church of Rome.
Who Built St. Peter's Basilica?
In the 4th century, Emperor Constantine decided to build a basilica where Saint Peter had been buried. The construction was completed in the year 329. Over time the church fell into disrepair. Pope Julius II decided to demolish the structure and replace it with a new basilica. He began the construction of the new church in 1506.
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Where is St. Peter's Basilica Located?
Address: Piazza San Pietro, 00120 Città del Vaticano, Vatican City
St. Peter's Basilica is located on St. Peter's Square. It stands within Vatican City, which is located to the west of the Tiber River, near Castel Sant'Angelo.Know More
St. Peter's Basilica Opening Hours
St. Peter's Basilica is open throughout the year. However, the opening hours vary based on the season.
Winter (1 October - 31 March)
7 AM to 6:30 PM
Summer (1 April - 30 September)
7 AM to 7 PMKnow More
History of St. Peter's Basilica In A Nutshell
In 64 AD, Saint Peter, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus, was crucified in the Circus of Nero. The Constantinian basilica was built in 326 over what was believed to be the tomb of Saint Peter. The church came to be referred to as the Old St. Peter's Basilica after the construction of the new St. Peter’s Basilica began in the 16th Century at the behest of Pope Julius II. The Pope chose Donato Bramante for the project.
The untimely death of Bramante in 1514 interrupted the work. Raffaello Sanzio was commissioned to continue the construction along with Fra 'Giocondo da Verona and Giuliano da Sangallo by Leo X Medici. However, with all three architects dying in a short span of 6 years, the project never fully took off.
Leo X then appointed Antonio da Sangallo the Younger as the architect of the building. However, due to several reasons, the construction halted until Paul III Farnese was elected in 1534. A new plan had been drawn up for the basilica, which marked a departure from Bramante's plan. However, even this new ambitious plan could not be carried out to completion. In 1546, Sangallo died and Michelangelo was appointed.
Michelangelo returned to Bramante's plan but modified the same to make it more simple yet dynamic. When Michelangelo died in 1564, the construction of the dome was still incomplete. Pope Pius IV Medici entrusted Jacopo Barozzi, to continue the work. He started the work on the internal part of the two minor domes, which was finished by Giacomo Della Porta.
In 1587, Porta was tasked with completing the dome. In less than two years, assisted by Domenico Fontana, he was able to complete the undertaking.
Under Paolo V Borghese, on 7 March 1607, the first stone of reconstruction was blessed. In October of the same year, demolition of whatever remained of the ancient church began. Carlo Maderno was entrusted to complete the work. The basilica appeared to the public in its new avatar on Palm Sunday in 1615, except for the embellishments that Gian Lorenzo Bernini would add, such as the Baldacchino and Chair of St. Peter.
Architecture of St. Peter’s Basilica
The Basilica is built in traditional Renaissance and Baroque architecture and has been an inspiration for church buildings across the world. The basilica is accessed from St. Peter's Square, designed by Bernini. The oval forecourt is encircled by a Doric colonnade, which ends at the facade of Saint Peter's Basilica designed by Carlo Maderno. The facade features a giant order of Corinthian columns topped by statues.
The original plan by Bramante imagined superimposing the Pantheon on the Temple of Peace, taking the shape of a Greek cross. Michelangelo modified the plan to incorporate the massive dome, which stands as the tallest dome in the world.St. Peter's Basilica Design & Construction
What's Inside St. Peter's Basilica?
Inside the basilica you will find a series of priceless treasures in marble and bronze, papal tombs and several famous paintings.
The St. Peter's Basilica Dome or the Cupola is one of the largest domes in the world. The design of the Dome is attributed to Michelangelo. However, the construction of the dome was completed only in 1590 by his pupil Giacomo Della Porta. The cupola has several elements across six concentric circles, including 16 large windows, busts, frescos, and figurines of over 96 figures. You can climb 231 steps or take the elevator to reach the base and climb up another 320 steps to reach the top of the cupola for unhindered views of the Vatican and Rome.St. Peter's Basilica Dome Tickets
The Pieta is one of the most recognizable statues in the world and was created by the Italian Master Michelangelo. The Carrara marble structure depicts Jesus after his crucifixion in the lap of Mother Mary. Almost 6 feet in height, the sculpture towers and exudes a monumental aura that portrays the sanctity of the moment. Pieta roughly translates to Pity in English, is the only sculpture that was signed by Michelangelo and was created in the late 15th century. You can find this breathtaking statue in the first chapel on the right as soon as you enter St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Papal Altar
Designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the Papal Altar is located at the center of Saint Peter's Basilica. Completed over a course of 11 years, the altar is surmounted by a bronze four-pillared canopy in a baroque style. The altar was built over the tomb of St. Peter, making the altar the most significant part of the church. Two main features of the Papal Altar are St. Peter’s Baldacchino and St. Peter’s Chair. It is here that the Pope performs Mass.St. Peter's Altar
Statue of St. Longinus
The Statue of St. Longinus is located in a gallery ‘loggia’ at one of the crossings in the St. Peter’s Basilica. You will have to crane your neck to admire this statue that towers over 13 feet and was sculpted by Bernini. The evocative marble sculpture is of the Roman centurion, St. Longinus, who pierced Jesus with a lance but who converted to Christianity after Christ’s death. The statue was built in 1643 and took over four blocks of marble.
Bronze Statue of St. Peter
Placed against the pillar of St. Longinus is the famous statue of St. Peter, which dates back to the 5th century. It is one of the most important aspects of the Basilica. It depicts the saint sitting on a marble chair, holding the keys of heaven in his left hand, and is his right hand raised in the act of blessings. Pilgrims traditionally touch and kiss its foot; over the years, this has allowed the toes to be worn thin.
On 29 June, the feast of St. Peter, the statue is clothed with an amice, alb, tiara, stole, red cope, and a ring, while the pedestal is decorated using fine marble, Sicilian jasper, green porphyry, and the "marble of St. Peter".
The word 'Confessio' refers to the Confession of faith by St. Peter which lead to his martyrdom. The Confessio is a small altar created by Carlo Maderno directly in front of the tomb of St Peter. Accessible by a staircase, the semicircular altar is located on the same level as the Grottoes. The existence of a Confessio is believed to date back to when the ancient foundation of the basilica was laid. However, the altar in its present form was created during the time of Clement VIII, and for the most part to Paul V.
St. Peter’s Tomb
St. Peter was said to be crucified in Caligula’s Circus back in 64 C.E. and buried at a spot on the Vatican Hill. Later on, during the reign of Constantinople, a church was built on the tomb of St. Peter, which was later turned into the present St. Peter’s Basilica in the 16th century. Currently, the Confessio area is created in front of St. Peter’s Tomb to commemorate his martyrdom. The papal altar was created directly above the tomb, and several popes are buried below the tomb in the Vatican Necropolis. There is however a lack of consensus whether the tomb really contains the remains of St. Peter!How to Visit St. Peter’s Tomb?
St. Peter’s Basilica is also the resting ground of several popes and historical figures and you can find their graves in the underground level known as the Vatican Grottoes. There are more than 100 such tombs, as well as chapels, dedicated to the popes and saints. These grottoes, or artificial caves, have elaborate designs and are decorated with frescos, sarcophagi, paintings, and inscriptions. The notable ones are the Chapel of St. Peter, the tomb of Christina of Sweden, the marble statue of St Peter enthroned, and the tomb of Queen Charlotte of Cyprus.Who's Buried in the Vatican Grottoes?
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Frequently Asked Questions About St. Peter's Basilica
A. St. Peter's Basilica is a Rennaisance-style church located in Vatican City. Built above the burial site of St. Peter, the church is considered to be one of the holiest sites in Christiandom. It is also a cultural, historical, and architectural landmark.
A. St. Peter's Basilica was built between 1506 and 1626.
A. It took about 150 years to build St. Peter's Basilica.
A. Tickets to St. Peter's Basilica starts at €27.
A. St. Peter's Basilica is located at Piazza San Pietro, 00120 Città del Vaticano, Vatican City.
A. Eight artistes Donato Bramante, Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, Michelangelo, Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola, Giacomo della Porta, Carlo Maderno, Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Carlo Fontana were responsible for designing St. Peter's Basilica.
A. St. Peter's Basilica is not only the largest church in the world, but also the holiest shrine in Christendom as it has been erected over the tomb of Saint Peter. It is home to some beautiful and priceless statues, and artworks as well.
A. Inside St. Peter's Basilica you will find many Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces such as Michelangelo's Pietà, the statue of St. Longinus and the baldachin by Bernini.
A. St. Peter's Basilica is open from 7 AM to 6:30 Pm between 1 October to 31 March and from 7 AM to 7 PM between 1 April to 30 September.
A. St. Peter's Basilica was built to replace the dilapidated Old St. Peter's Basilica, which was built in the 4th century by Roman emperor Constantine the Great. It was built between 1506 and 1626.
A. Spread over 21,000 square meters, Peter's Basilica in Vatican City is the world's largest church.