Saint Peter's Basilica | Must-See Monument in Rome

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

st peter's basilica
  • 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.

Explore St. Peter's Basilica

St Peter's Basilica
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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St Peter's Basilica
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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St Peter's Basilica
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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St Peter's Basilica
Statue of St. Longinus

As you wander through the splendor of St. Peter's Basilica, you'll encounter several magnificent statues, each telling its own remarkable story. Among them is the awe-inspiring statue of St. Longinus, the Ancient Roman centurion known for piercing the side of Christ with a lance. Legend has it that he experienced a profound transformation after witnessing Christ's death, leading him to embrace Christianity.

Bernini, the renowned sculptor, masterfully crafted the statue of St. Longinus in 1643 from four marble slabs. This imposing sculpture, standing approximately 10 meters tall, finds its place in a grand recess beneath the loggias of the relics. The connection to the relics adds to the statue's significance, while its placement at the first pier on the right enhances its prominence.

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St Peter's Basilica
Bronze Statue of St. Peter

The renowned statue of St. Peter holds significant historical and religious importance worldwide. While some scholars attribute it to Arnolfo di Cambio (1245–1302), others date its casting to the 15th century. This iconic sculpture, located in St. Peter's Basilica, depicts St. Peter preaching and imparting blessings while holding the symbolic keys to the kingdom of heaven.

A popular tradition among visitors is to touch and kiss the foot of the St. Peter's statue, resulting in its worn appearance. On St. Peter's Day, June 29, the statue is adorned with elaborate attire, including an amice, alb, tiara, stole, crimson cope, and a ring, creating an almost lifelike presence.

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St Peter's Basilica
The Confession

The term 'Confessio' refers to St. Peter's declaration of faith, which ultimately led to his martyrdom. In the context of St. Peter's Basilica, the Confessio area is a sacred space created directly in front of his tomb. This semicircular area, located at the level of the grottoes, can be reached through a double staircase.

At the end of the Confessio lies the Niche of the Pallium, positioned directly under the altar and in close proximity to the tomb. This niche holds a bronze coffer containing fabrics known as "pallium," which are woven from the wool of lambs blessed on the feast of St. Agnes (January 21). These palliums are bestowed upon patriarchs and metropolitans, serving as a symbol of the Church's unity and a reminder of their spiritual responsibilities.

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St Peter's Basilica
St. Peter’s Tomb

Beneath the grandeur of St. Peter's Basilica lies the sacred site of Saint Peter's tomb, surrounded by a collection of tombs and a monument erected as a tribute to the apostle's final resting place, as stated by the Vatican. These ancient mausoleums, dating back to the period between AD 130 and AD 300, add to the historical significance of the location.

In the early 4th century, during the reign of Constantine I around AD 330, the mausoleum complex underwent significant changes. It was mostly dismantled and buried under layers of earth to lay the foundation for the construction of the original St. Peter's Basilica. The subsequent construction of the present-day St. Peter's Basilica further enhanced the sanctity of the site, making it a profoundly revered pilgrimage destination for Christians worldwide.

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St Peter's Basilica
Vatican Grottoes

St. Peter's Basilica reveals an intriguing sight for visitors—the Vatican Grottoes, a network of underground cemeteries beneath the Church. These grottoes, akin to man-made or natural caves used for funerals, hold the tombs of numerous popes, saints, and church officials, dating back to the 10th century. A remarkable 91 popes rest here, alongside cardinals and other dignitaries.

Surprisingly, the grottoes also house the final resting place of non-religious royalty, including Queen Christina of Sweden, the Stuarts, and Queen Charlotte of Cyprus. The necropolis, housing the sacred tomb of St. Peter, forms the backdrop for these intriguing and historically significant burial chambers beneath the majestic St. Peter's Basilica. This hidden world of veneration and remembrance offers a captivating glimpse into the profound history and spiritual legacy of the Vatican.

Architecture & Design of St. Peter’s Basilica

St Peter's Basilica

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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St Peter's Basilica

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
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Best time to Visit
St Peter's Basilica

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

Basilica Opening Hours:Low Season: 1 Oct to 31 Mar: 8 AM - 5 PMHigh 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.

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History of St. Peter's Basilica

St.Peter's Basilica

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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FAQ's Of St Peter's Basilica

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.

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