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

The Travel Hacking Life (8 months ago)
HIGHLY RECOMMMENDED! It is the most important basilica of Christianity in the world. It is simply majestic inside and out, with historical artifacts, statues and other beautiful works of art. No matter your religion, visiting St. Peter’s Basilica and learning about its impressive history is 100% worth it.
Nicholas Christopher Hood (9 months ago)
Let’s keep this really simple. Many of us including myself have been across the world to see it’s beautiful sights and history. This place, Italy as a whole, Rome, the Vatican; the Basilica.. It is profound and beautiful and you’re not likely to find or see much else like it so long as you live.
Thomas Sallermann (9 months ago)
This is the most important place in Roman Catholicism. The building in itself is quite impressive. You can discover lots of beautiful art. Fortunately not all the money
Patricia Moss (9 months ago)
Wonderful experience. We went at the perfect time, no lines anywhere. Beautiful inside and out. The dome is also quite nice and there is an elevator which will take you halfway
Philip Kearns (11 months ago)
Really needs to be seen to be appreciated. No church in the world comes close to its grandeur, history and magnificence, and visiting is completely free! Regardless of your religion do not visit Rome without taking the time to visit St Peters. I recommend getting either a tour or an audio guide to really get an appreciation of the various art works and historical artefacts. One of the lesser appreciated pieces that I found interesting and beautiful was the massive porphyry baptism font. Of course climbing the cupola is definitely worth the time and effort as well.
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