Saint Peter's Basilica is the center of Christianity in Vatican city state. Designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, St. Peter's is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and one of the largest churches in the world. While it is neither the mother church of the Catholic Church nor the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, St. Peter's is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic shrines.

Catholic tradition holds that the Basilica is the burial site of St. Peter, one of Christ's Apostles and also the first Pope; supposedly, St. Peter's tomb is directly below the high altar of the Basilica. For this reason, many Popes have been interred at St. Peter's since the Early Christian period. There has been a church on this site since the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. Construction of the present basilica, replacing the Old St. Peter's Basilica of the 4th century AD, began on 18 April 1506 and was completed on 18 November 1626.

St. Peter's is famous as a place of pilgrimage and for its liturgical functions. The Pope presides at a number of liturgies throughout the year, drawing audiences of 15,000 to over 80,000 people, either within the Basilica or the adjoining St. Peter's Square.

St. Peter's has many historical associations, with the Early Christian Church, the Papacy, the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-reformation and numerous artists, especially Michelangelo. As a work of architecture, it is regarded as the greatest building of its age. St. Peter's is one of the four churches in the world that hold the rank of Major Basilica, all four of which are in Rome. Contrary to popular misconception, it is not a cathedral because it is not the seat of a bishop; the Cathedra of the Pope as Bishop of Rome is in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran.

Architecture

St. Peter's central dome dominates the skyline of Rome. The basilica is approached via St. Peter's Square, a forecourt in two sections, both surrounded by tall colonnades. The first space is oval and the second trapezoid. The façade of the basilica, with a giant order of columns, stretches across the end of the square and is approached by steps on which stand two 5.55 metres statues of the 1st-century apostles to Rome, Saints Peter and Paul.

The basilica is cruciform in shape, with an elongated nave in the Latin cross form but the early designs were for a centrally planned structure and this is still in evidence in the architecture. The central space is dominated both externally and internally by one of the largest domes (designed by Michelangelo) in the world. The entrance is through a narthex, or entrance hall, which stretches across the building. One of the decorated bronze doors leading from the narthex is the Holy Door, only opened during jubilees.

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Founded: 1506-1626
Category: Religious sites in Vatican City State

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User Reviews

Malena M (16 months ago)
Better to go early morning! The best time to visit the Vatican and Rome in general is off-season, January to March. The usual crowds are less and it's easier to visit the major landmarks, which also saves time and gives chance to explore more sites. Weather is so better than during summer time when the temperatures are ridiculously high.
Henrique Leme Orsi (16 months ago)
The place is phenomenal! It is immense, sumptuous and clearly shows the grandeur of the Catholic church. Whether it is religious or not, it is impressive the architecture, the adornments, the level of detail of the buildings, sculptures, paintings, etc. The route to know the whole place is long, until the Sistine chapel, so prepare to walk. Wear comfortable shoes. Worth the visit! I recommend. (Detail: remember to buy tickets through the site in advance)
Malachy Gillespie (17 months ago)
A grand place and def worth the trip. We came here on the Sunday and the pope was making an address at 12. Apparently this happens every Sunday at 12 so if your here over that period it is something special even for a non religious one like me. The basilica is impressive and you could spend hours in here taking in the grandness and in some respects indulgence of the place. Was busy when I went but was never caught in a massive queue and all flowed very well.
Arnav Singh (17 months ago)
absolutely breathtaking.... The line to enter was 3/4 of the square and was almost ready to leave..... Luckily my husband convinced me to try and wait for 15 minutes.... Best decision ever, in less than 1 hour we were in and went directly up to the Dome walking up all the stairs (no elevator).... I will recommend it to whoever is well fit.... The view from up there is 360°....
alessia cerpelloni (17 months ago)
absolutely breathtaking.... The line to enter was 3/4 of the square and was almost ready to leave..... Luckily my husband convinced me to try and wait for 15 minutes.... Best decision ever, in less than 1 hour we were in and went directly up to the Dome walking up all the stairs (no elevator).... I will recommend it to whoever is well fit.... The view from up there is 360°.....
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