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St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican

St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican

St. Peter Basilica in the Vatican ranks first among the pilgrimage objects of Rome. Several generations of acknowledged Italian architects worked on the construction of the building. The interior is richly decorated with monuments, altars, statues and tombstones. Luxury adornment and its scale are indescribable. The cathedral can accommodate 60 thousand people. To make the comparison more visible, the cathedral's walls have size indices of other Catholic churches, which corroborates the grandeur of the building.

History of St. Peter's Basilica

The first small basilica was erected in 326 at the alleged burial of the apostle Peter, who died as a martyr in 66 AD. The second St. Peter's Basilica already existed in the year of 800 when the coronation of Emperor Charles the Great took place there. In the 15th century, the ancient temple was already decrepit, so a large cathedral was commissioned to be built on that place. It was meant to outshine all the Christian and pagan temples, thereby emphasizing the influence of the Catholic Church.

The cathedral was designed by many Italian masters. In 1506, the project belonging to Donato Bramante was finally approved. His work was continued by Rafael Santi, Baldassare Peruzzi and Antonio da Sangallo. In 1546, the construction was taken under Michelangelo's rule. After the death of the genius, Giacomo della Porta took the responsibility over. In the 17th century, the architect Carlo Maderno elaborated the form of the temple. Between 1656 and 1667, under the leadership of Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, the monumental St. Peter's Square was created. Bernini dedicated most of his life to the creation of various elements of the shrine having played an important role in the basilica’s design.

Exterior of Basilica

Thirteen statues adorn the attic over the columns: a 5-metre statue of Jesus Christ surrounded by sculptures of 11 apostles and John the Baptist. The facade is decorated with an 18th-century clock crafted by Giuseppe Valadier. Behind the columns, five doors lead to the cathedral: the Door of the Sacraments, the Door of Good and Evil (these two are open to public), the Filarete Door and the Door of Death (always closed), the Holy Door (on Holy years open).

Masterpieces of St. Peter's Basilica

In the three naves of the cathedral one can see sublime examples of consummate artistic skill such as:

  • Statue of St. Peter created in the 13th century by Arnolfo di Cambio.
  • 119-metres dome and a 5-metre statue of St. Longinus by Bernini.
  • 29-metre canopy that includes four statues of angels by Bernini.
  • Chair of St. Peter and the Tomb of Pope Urban VIII designed by Bernini.
  • Michelangelo's marble Pietà.
  • 13th-century wooden crucifix, Pietro Cavallini.
  • Tomb of Countess Matilda of Tuscany and Pope Alexander VII, Bernini.
  • Tomb of Pope Innocent VIII by Antonio del Pollaiolo.
  • Monument to the Royal Stuarts, Antonio Canova.

The highest dome in the world is also worth attention. Its construction under the auspices of Giacomo della Porta and Domenico Fontana was completed in 1590.

Apart from the cathedral, the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museums and the Apostolic Palace are considered must-sees in the Vatican.

 How to get there

Take the metro to the Ottaviano or San Pietro stations, the buses № 23, 32, 81, 590, 982, 11 to the Piazza del Risorgimento, or the tram № 19 to the San Pietro stop. From Termini Station the buses № 40, 64 or 116 run to Terminal Gianicolo.

Opening hours: the cathedral is open to public from 07:00 to 19:00, and until 18:00 in winter. On Wednesday mornings, the Basilica is closed to visitors for an audience. Admission is free. 

The top of the dome offers beautiful panorama. Although, you would need a ticket to climb the dome, both on foot or by lift. The entrance to the Cathedral is under strict control. Visitors have to undergo bags check and pass through a metal detector. The dress code does not allow bare shoulders and knees, women should also cover their head. Pictures without a flash are allowed.

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