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St. Peter's Basilica

The center of Christianity, St. Peter’s Basilica and its glorious dome dominate over the rooftops of the Eternal City. It is one of the most-visited sites in all of Rome, both for its artistic beauty and for its importance to Catholic worshippers. From Christmas, the Holy Week before Easter, and Jubilee Years to the funeral rites for deceased Popes, the vigils upon declarations of new Popes and the canonization of Saints, pilgrims gather here to witness the poignant events of their faith. 
For travelers to Rome, the trip is never complete until they take the opportunity to admire St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Peter’s Square and the gorgeous colonnade that embraces it all.St. Peter’s Basilica

A destination for Catholic worshippers arriving from all over the world, the internationally-famous Basilica is also a port of call for pilgrims, artists, scholars, and the merely curious. It is the largest of the Papal Basilicas, and one of the largest churches in the entire world. 
 
Exterior

The splendid Basilica, built between 1506 (during the time of Pope Julius II) and 1626 (when Urban VIII was Pope) shines like a brilliant beacon in St. Peter’s Square. 
The Square (Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s piazza) itself was not actually completed until 1667; indeed it was only in the 12th Century that the master architect realized his powerful lateral colonnades – composed of 284 columns in the Doric order, surmounted by 140 statues of 10.17-ft saints, as well as by six very large crests belonging to Alessandro VII Chigi. It is Bernini’s genius that has endowed Piazza San Pietro’s colonnade with such a striking appearances: notice the porphyry disks that testify to the columns’ perfect alignment, each one behind the other, magically creating the effect of a wave of motion. 
Take the grand stairway to the Basilica’s portal, we notice that Bernini’s renovations have left behind three terraces; meanwhile, at the church’s entrance we find five gates along the 233-ft-wide loggia. This particular portico and the façade, however, are signed by Carlo Maderno.


Interior

Entering inside the Basilica is sure to leave you with just a slightly-lowered jaw, as taking in the magnificent and elaborate Baroque workings of the interior is a bewildering experience.  The sacred message it evokes is immediate; this immense and grandiose interior is divided into three naves, lined by robust pilasters topped by round arches that reach over 65.6 feet in height and 42.7 ft in width.
The Basilica’s apse opens up behind the monumental St. Peter’s Baldachin; the apse’s majestic Baroque composition (again, Bernini’s work) includes the Chair of St. Peter, positioned as though it were a relic. This wooden throne, according to a Medieval legend, belonged to St. Peter the Apostle when he was First Bishop of Rome and Pope.  
Several invaluable masterpieces are located in the altars and chapels lateral to the naves; some of these historic, artistic treasures are the creations of Bernini, for one, while others find their roots in the Paleochristian church, for instance, the bronze statue of St. Peter (by Arnolfo di Cambio), whose foot is worn from caresses by the faithful. 
And of course, Michelangelo’s sublime, marble Pietà is the divine expression of an artist of only 23 years old.
Art lovers flock to St. Peter’s for La Pietà, but they know that it is the cupola that symbolizes the Vatican City in the eyes of the world. 
Designed by Michelangelo, Domenico Fontana and Giacomo Della Porta finished it. 
Lastly, beneath the Basilica’s flooring are the Grotte Vaticane, where the Tomb of Peter and the final resting places of John Paul II and his predecessors are held.

Curiosities and Dimensions
St. Peter’s Basilica’s exterior is approximately 715 feet long and 437 feet high (all the way to the top of the dome), while it runs a surface area of 75,459 sq ft. The façade stands at 376 feet wide and 149 feet tall, and overlooks a piazza that is 787 feet in diameter, whose center boasts the iconic, 82-ft tall Egyptian obelisk.

Forty-five altars and 11 chapels constitute the contents of its naves.

Two copies exist of the Statue of St. Peter: one resides in Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral, while the other rests in the Co-Cathedral of the Most Holy Name of Christ in Jerusalem.  

Useful Information

Useful Information
Useful Links

Region of Lazio Tourism 

Official Tourism Website, Comune of Rome 

Official Website for the Museums of Rome 


Official Website of the Holy See 


 


How to Get There


By Plane

L. Da Vinci Airport, Fiumicino 

Aeroporto G.B. Pastine Airport, Ciampino

 


By Train
St. Peter’s Station
Termini Station
Tiburtina Station

By Bus
Several bus lines run between Rome and major Italian cities. 
Almost all long-distance services stop at metro stations, predominantly Tiburtina and EUR Fermi.