St. Peter's Basilica

About Saint Peters Basilica

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About St. Peter's Basilica

One of the biggest cathedrals in the world and one of Christendom's holiest temples is St. Peter's Basilica. Additionally, the Pope conducts several liturgies there year-round.After the old basilica was destroyed, work on the new basilica started in 1506, and it was completed in 1626. The day of its dedication was November 18, 1626. Visit St. Peter’s Basilica to experience the view of a temple that was created by a number of well-known architects, with a focus on the works of Bramante, Michelangelo, and Carlo Maderno.

The basilica was given the name St. Peter's in honor of Saint Peter, one of Jesus' twelve apostles who was killed in Rome and buried there. Saint Peter was one of the founders of the Catholic Church. The St. Peter's Baldachin, a large bronze baldachin created by Bernini, The Pietà, a sculpture by Michelangelo, and the figure of St. Peter on his throne are among the incredibly remarkable works of art that can be found within. The Basilica's spectacular dome is the most striking part of the St. Peter’s Basilica architecture. Michelangelo began the design, and Giacomo Della Porta finished it. In 1614, Carlo Maderno completed the dome.

St. Peter’s Basilica Highlights

Exterior
  • Admire the obelisk from ancient Egypt that occupies the basilica's center.

  • Climb up to the terrace of St. Peter's Basilica. Enjoy the breathtaking vistas and Michelangelo's Cupola while standing here.

  • Visit the Vatican Grottoes to see the saints' and the popes' graves. See the Renaissance masterpieces by Michelangelo and Bernini here.

  • Other well-known features of the basilica include the statue of St. Peter, the tomb of Pope John Paul II, the La Pietà sculpture by Michelangelo, the Baldachin by Bernini, and more.

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Explore St. Peter's Basilica

The Dome
The Dome

Designed by Michelangelo, The Dome iis one of the most popular reasons to visit St. Peter’s Basilica because of the various massive domes. The enormous dome, lavishly decorated with mosaic and stucco embellishments, towers over the altar and the baldacchino. It has a radius of 71 meters and a height from the floor to the lantern's roof of 120 meters, and it is held by four structural piers. The four Evangelists are shown in medallions with a diameter of 8.5 meters in the four spandrels that connect the square piers and the circular drum: Matthew with the ox, Mark with the lion, Luke with the angel, and John with the eagle.

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Michelangelo's Pieta
Michelangelo's Pieta

The Pieta- which is one of the most famous sculptures in the world- forms some arresting stops when you explore St. Peter’s Basilica.It is the only sculpture Michelangelo ever signed, and it was created when he was 24 years old. Everyone is left with a lasting impression by the elegance of its lines and emotion. Michelangelo has provided us with a deeply spiritual and Christian understanding of human suffering through this exquisite statue.

Artists both before and after Michelangelo consistently portrayed the Virgin holding the dead Christ in her arms as heartbroken and nearly in despair. On the other hand, Michelangelo produced a highly supernatural impression. The Virgin's expression exudes tenderness, peace, and a magnificent acceptance of this enormous sadness paired with her confidence in the Redeemer as she carries Jesus' lifeless body on her lap.

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The Papal Altar & Baldacchino
The Papal Altar & Baldacchino

The high or papal altar is located next to the Confessio in the center of the basilica, and a visit to St. Peter’s Basilica inevitably leads one here. It was dedicated by Clement VIII on June 26, 1594, and was cut from a massive block of Greek marble that was in Nerva's Forum.

It is placed over an ancient altar that Callistus II built in 1123, which itself holds an even older altar. The magnificent, imposing bronze "baldacchino," Bernini's first creation for the basilica, is placed atop the altar. A beautiful sequence depicting "motherhood" is carved into the four marble pedestals of the monument, which is characteristic of 17th-century style. The sculpture is generously decorated with the Barberini family's heraldic bees.

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Statue of St. Longinus
Statue of St. Longinus

As you explore St. Peter’s Basilica, you will inevitably come across several impressive statues, and this is just one of them. St. Longinus was the Ancient Roman centurion who is believed to have pierced the side of Christ with a lance. After feeling the gloom following Christ's death, he is supposed to have become a Christian. Four enormous sculptures that are connected to the relics, each standing about 10 meters tall, are housed in enormous recesses that Bernini built beneath the loggias of the relics. The statue of St. Longinus, the soldier who pierced Jesus' side and caused "blood and water" to flow, is located at the first pier on the right. In 1643, Bernini sculpted it out of four marble slabs.

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Bronze Statue of St. Peter
Bronze Statue of St. Peter

This historic statue of St. Peter, which shows him preaching and bestowing blessings while holding the keys to the kingdom of heaven, is well-known all throughout the world. It has been credited to Arnolfo di Cambio (1245–1302) by some academics, although according to others, the casting dates to the 15th century.

The St. Peter’s statue is one of the most popular sculptures you’ll come across when you visit St. Peter’s Basilica; the foot of the basilica is customarily touched and kissed by visitors, and is now worn thin. The statue is dressed with an amice, alb, tiara, stole, crimson cope, and a ring for St. Peter's Day on June 29 so that it almost seems to come to life. The pedestal is embellished with fine marble, Sicilian jasper, green porphyry, and "Marble of St. Peter."

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The Confession
The Confession

The word 'Confessio' refers to the Confession of faith by St. Peter which led to his martyrdom. Here the Confessio area is the space created directly in front of the tomb of St Peter. This semicircular space located at the level of the grottoes is accessed by a double staircase. The niche at the end of the Confessio, directly under the altar and closest to the tomb, is called the Niche of the Pallium. In this niche, is placed a bronze coffee with fabrics (stoles called "pallium") woven from the wool of lambs blessed on the feast of St. Agnes (Jan 21) and bestowed upon patriarchs and metropolitans as a reminder of the Church's unity

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Tomb of Innocent XI
St. Peter’s Tomb

The Saint Peter's tomb, which is located under St. Peter's Basilica, is where a number of tombs can be found along with a monument that, according to the Vatican, was erected as a tribute to the spot where Saint Peter is buried.The group of mausoleums located by the tomb are believed to be from the period between AD 130 and AD 300. During the reign of Constantine I, roughly about AD 330, the mausoleum complex was largely destroyed and covered with dirt to serve as a foundation for the construction of the first St. Peter's Basilica.

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Vatican Grottoes
Vatican Grottoes

One of the most interesting sights one comes across as they explore St. Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican Grottoes are a set of underground cemeteries underneath the Church. A grotto is essentially a man-made or natural cave that is utilized by people, typically for funerals. The graves of various popes and saints are located here. In actuality, the Vatican Grottoes serve as the final resting place for 91 popes as well as other church officials going as far back as the 10th century, including cardinals. The grottoes also include a few tombs of non-religious kings, including those of Queen Christina of Sweden, the Stuarts, and Queen Charlotte of Cyprus. The necropolis, which contains the holy tomb of St. Peter, is where the grottoes are situated.

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Architecture & Design of St. Peter’s Basilica

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Exterior

St. Peter’s Basilica sits at the very end of St. Peter’s Square, a Greek-inspired elliptical plaza surrounded by a Doric colonnade.The Carlo Maderno-designed front has a massive order of Corinthian columns and is topped by thirteen sculptures of Christ, John the Baptist, and eleven of the Apostles. Steps leading up to it are defended by two 18-foot-tall sculptures of Saints Peter and Paul.The dome, which Giacomo della Porta, a student of Michelangelo, erected, rests on four huge piers and pendentives.

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secret Entrance
Interior

The basilica's interior is cruciform in design, with an extended nave resembling a Latin cross. Wide aisles that lead to several chapels surround the nave. These include the Gregorian Chapel, the Chapel of the Pieta, the Chapel of the Presentation of the Virgin, and several additional altars. In addition, the Chapel of the Confession is located below the high altar. The interior of Saint Peter's encompasses a set of invaluable pieces of art in stone and bronze by the greatest Renaissance sculptors, including Michelangelo's Pieta as well as Baroque, Neoclassical, and ceremonial sculptures like the baldachin or main altar canopy, and the traditional Chair of St. Peter (Cathedra Petri), which were all created by Bernini.

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Plan Your Visit to St. Peter's Basilica

Opening Hours & Location
How to Reach
Best time to Visit

Basilica Opening Hours: Low Season: 1 Oct to 31 Mar: 8 AM - 5 PM High Season: 1 Apr to 30 Sep: 7 AM - 7 PM

Dome Opening Hours: October to March: 8 AM - 5 PM April to September: 8 AM - 6 PM

The Dome remains closed on Wednesday mornings, but reopens again at around 12-1 PM.

Location: Piazza San Pietro, 00120 Città del Vaticano, Vatican City

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History of St. Peter's Basilica

Chapels

The St. Peter’s Basilica history dates back to the older Church that stood here. Between 318 and 322 CE, work on what is now known as Old St. Peter's Basilica started and continued for 40 years. Solomonic columns from the Temple of Solomon itself, according to legend, were utilized on the altar at Old St. Peter's. The church's interior was elaborately adorned with paintings and mosaics, most notably those by Giotto. The Old St. Peter's Basilica built by Constantine was still in use in the 16th century.

The medieval basilica had become dilapidated by the end of the 15th century, especially during the Avignon Papacy. Nicholas V appears to have been the first pope to explore reconstructing Old St. Peter's. Pope Julius II had a more radical concept for the new St. Peter's that called for a total makeover and the destruction of the historic basilica. In order to do this, he promoted a tournament, which Donato Bramante won. He intended to build a Greek cross-shaped church with a dome that was modeled by Florence's Santa Maria del Fiore and the Pantheon in Rome.

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FAQs

What is St. Peter Basilica famous for?

Not only is the Basilica the oldest Church in the world, it is also the seat of the Roman Catholic Church. If this is not enough, the Basilica also contains some of the most remarkable pieces of architecture in the world, including the Pieta, and Michelangelo’s Cupola.

How long does St Peter's Basilica take?

It would take around 3-4 to explore St. Peter’s Basilica in its entirety.

What is the best time of day to visit St Peter's Basilica?

The best time to visit St. Peter’s Basilica would be in the early morning hours, ideally just after opening. However, do make it a point to avoid Wednesday mornings as the Dome remains closed then.

What days is St Peter's Basilica closed?

The Basilica itself remains open on all days of the week. However, the Basilica Dome remains closed on Wednesday mornings, when the Papal audience is held.

Is St Peter's Basilica worth it?

Home to some of the most striking works of art and architecture in the world, the St. Peter’s Basilica is definitely worth a visit.

Can you take pictures in St Peter's Basilica?

Photography is allowed only in some sections inside the Basilica. Keep an eye out for signs forbidding photos.

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