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St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

Holy See (Vatican City State) The Basilica with an eminent Italian Renaissance architecture inspired from the Pillar of Catholicism
Catholic

Vatican City, one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in the world, hems the great Italian Renaissance church, named as the St. Peter’s Basilica or the New St. Peter’s Basilica. Built in the 4th-century, it was solemnly dedicated in 1626 by Pope Urban VIII, after 120 years construction. Located to the west of the River Tiber, near the Janiculum Hill and Hadrian’s Mausoleum, the architecture, interior, artwork and glorious history of the church is sure to amaze you, especially the Michelangelo’s Pietà and Bernini’s 29m-high baldachin over the altar. St. Peter’s Basilica holds the rank of one of the 4 ‘Major Basilicas’, including the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls and the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.

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Overview

History and Belief

St. Peter’s Basilica has a timeworn history behind it. One of the twelve disciples of Jesus, Simon popularly known as Saint Peter, was martyred and buried by the Roman emperor Nero in A.D. 64. at the Circus of Nero. A small shrine was built on that site. After almost 300 years, Old St. Peter’s Basilica was constructed over that small shrine, which had large number of burials and memorials of many popes, by then. Old St. Peter's Basilica was the 4th-century church initiated by Emperor Constantine between 319 and 333 CE. It went into disrepair for a long period, when Pope Nicholas V took the initiative to rebuild it.

After him, in the sixteenth century CE, Pope Julius II decided to demolish the Old Basilica and redesign it as the grandest building in Christendom. In 1506 construction began on Bramante's design for a new basilica based on a Greek-cross plan, with four equal arms and a huge central dome. After him, Michelangelo took over in 1547, who simplified the design and made a dynamic dome design which was completed in 1590. Further piloted by other leaders and designers, finally the Basilica was consecrated in 1626 after 120 years of ongoing construction.

 


Architecture

Everything about St. Peter’s Basilica is colossal and gratifying. It is the most favored tourist place in Rome, Italy. The Basilica is the best example of Renaissance and Baroque architecture. St Peter’s Basilica saw the involvement of famed architects, including Donato Bramante, Raphael, Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, Michelangelo, Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Michelangelo is said to have designed the main dome of the Basilica, which soars at a height of 119 m, supported by four stone piers. The interiors, characterized by huge mosaics, are sites of some of the most famous art works from all over the world, for example, Bernini’s baldachin and Michelangelo’s Pietà. St. Peter’s Basilica has more than 100 tombs, including the tombs of 91 popes.

The Basilica’s apse opens up behind the monumental St. Peter’s Baldachin; the apse’s majestic Bernini’s Baroque composition including the Chair of St. Peter. This wooden throne, according to a medieval legend, belonged to St. Peter the Apostle when he was First Bishop of Rome and Pope. Several other masterpieces are located in the Basilica naming few like the bronze statue of St. Peter, Michelangelo’s sublime, marble Pietà and so on. Beneath the Basilica’s flooring are the Grotte Vaticane, where the Tomb of St. Peter and the final resting places of John Paul II and his predecessors are held.

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 facade 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.

St. Peter’s Basilica is a destination for Catholic worshippers that attracts pilgrims, scholars, artists, photographers and general travelers as well. The Pope presides at a number of rituals throughout the year, drawing audiences of 15,000 to over 80,000 people. Visitors can go to the top of the dome and enjoy a stunning aerial view of the city Rome.

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5 interesting Facts & Myths about St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

  • ·The current Basilica is actually St. Peter’s Basilica 2. Not much of the original Basilica remains, but a piece of a mosaic can still be found at Santa Maria in Cosmedin.

  • ·Michelangelo's Pietà located at St. Peter's Basilica, is housed in an acrylic bulletproof glass. It is the only work that Michelangelo has ever signed.

  • ·There is a door in St. Peter’s Basilica, appropriately called the “Holy Door”, which is opened only for holy years, i.e. Jubilee years. People who pass by this door feel a divine experience   for lifetime.

  • ·Climbing to the top of Michelangelo’s dome costs 7- 10 Euros, and has 551 steps to the top. One may take a small lift halfway and then follow on foot for the last 320 steps.

  • ·None of the paintings inside the basilica are actually paintings. Instead those are mosaic, created with much pain and intense artwork.

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Programs

Daily programs

Weekdays

8:30 AM- Blessed Sacrament Chapel, followed by Eucharistic Adoration

9:00 AM - 12:00 PM – Altar of St. Joseph

5:00 PM: Altar of the Chair

Sunday and Holy Days?

9:00 AM - Altar of the Chair, Mass for the Parish ?

10:30 AM - Altar of the Chair, Solemn Mass

11:30 AM – Blessed Sacrament Chapel

12:15 PM - Altar of the Chair

1:00 PM – Altar of St. Joseph

4:00 PM – 5.45 PM- Altar of the Chair

There are number of other programs which happen on daily basis and visitors much check the official website http://www.stpetersbasilica.info/touristinfo.htm#mass for more information.

Special programs

Angelus : Takes place every month on Sundays
Solemnity of Mary
Solemnity of the Epiphany
“Urbi et Orbi”
General Audiences: On selective Wednesdays every month, except July.
Pastoral visit : Bologna, takes place on the first Sunday in October
Liturgical celebration: Takes place from January to April, June, October to December. Days vary as per the month.
Mass for the Solemnity of Mary
Mass for the Solemnity of the Epiphany  
Vespers
Mass for Religious
Papal Mass for Ash Wednesday
Palm Sunday Mass
Chrism Mass
Celebration of the Lord’s Passion
Way of the Cross
Easter Vigil and Sunday Mass

For further details on liturgical celebrations and the entire year calendar for above programs, please check the official website http://www.vatican.va/various/prefettura/en/udienze_en.html

Travel

How to travel

By air: L. Da Vinci Airport, Fiumicino, Aeroporto G.B. Pastine Airport, Ciampino

By Train: St. Peter’s Station

Termini Station

Tiburtina Station

By Road: Almost all long-distance services stop at metro stations, predominantly Tiburtina and EUR Fermi.

The St. Peter’s Basilica can be visited at any time of the year. The nearest subway station is Ottaviano. Passel of hotels and restaurants are around the St.Peter’s Basilica, catering mostly non-veg multicuisine, along with few vegan dishes; and lots of different budget category hotels around.

The Basilica is based in Vatican City, which is merely 2.3 miles from Rome and 142 miles from Florence in Italy.

 

VISITING DAYS/HOURS

April – September: 7:00 AM - 7:00 PM

October – March: 7:00 AM - 6:00 PM

It is closed every Wednesday morning.
It opens up at approximately 12:30 PM on Wednesday.

Travel Tips

  • Strict dress code with no shorts, miniskirts and bare shoulders for both men and women.
  • Advised to wear comfortable footwear, because one has to walk through a huge area while covering the view of the Basilica.
  • Camera and videography is allowed within the Basilica.
  • Entrance to the Basilica is free, still ticket is required.

See St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City on map

Nearby Attraction

  • Sistine Chapel: 100 m from St. Peter’s Basilica, it is a chapel in the Apostolic Palace. Its ceiling painting created by Michelangelo is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of Western art.
  • St. Peter’s Square: Situated 300 m from the Basilica, locally known as Piazza San Pietro. It borders and creates a magnificent entry point to the St. Peter’s Basilica.
  • Vatican museum: Featuring one of the finest collections of art in the world, and one of world’s famous staircases, this museum is around 350 m from the St. Peter’s Basilica.
  • Castel Sant’Angelo: It’s a large and splendid castle, which is 1.1 km away from the St.Peter’s Basilica. Originally a museum, later transformed into a castle where popes used to take refuge.
  • Ponte Sant’Angelo: It is regarded as the most beautiful bridge in Rome. Ponte Sant’Angelo was originally called St.Peter’s bridge. Around 1.1 km from the great Basilica.

 

Additional Information

  • A network of chapels, niches and vaulted ceilings adorned with Baroque trimmings encircle the central domed area.
  • You walk past Michelangelo’s famous Pieta, a marble sculpture of Mary holding the crucified body of Jesus. Then you approach the basilica’s centerpiece: the Chair of St. Peter.
  • In front of the chair is a 70-foot-tall bronze canopy that covers the papal altar. It stands directly below the dome’s oculus and above St. Peter’s tomb in the lower levels. The dome shines light toward St. Peter, symbolically linking the saint with the altar and the heavens.
  • The large, wooden chair, crafted as early as the sixth century, is encased in an intricate bronze gilt sculpted by Bernini. In the gilt, angels hover near a round, stained-glass window with a dove at the center. When sunlight brightens the stained glass, it creates an ethereal effect.
  • Michelangelo simplified Bramante’s plans and drew up designs for what was to become his greatest architectural achievement, the dome. He never lived to see it built, though, and it was left to Giacomo della Porta and Domenico Fontana to finish it in 1590.
  • The central balcony is known as the Loggia della Benedizione, and it’s from here that the pope delivers his Urbi et Orbi blessing at Christmas and Easter.
  • A red floor disk marks the spot where Charlemagne and later Holy Roman Emperors were crowned by the pope.
  • At the base of the Pier of St Longinus is Arnolfo di Cambio's much-loved 13th-century bronze statue of St Peter, whose right foot has been worn down by centuries of caresses.
  • Accessed from the left nave, the Museo Storico Artistico sparkles with sacred relics, including a tabernacle by Donatello and the 6th-century Crux Vaticana, a jewel-studded cross that was a gift of the emperor Justinian II.
  • On Bramante’s death (1514) Leo X commissioned as his successors Raphael, Fra Giovanni Giocondo, and Giuliano da Sangallo, who modified the original Greek cross plan to a Latin cross with three aisles separated by pillars. The architects after Raphael’s death in 1520 were Antonio da Sangallo the Elder, Baldassarre Peruzzi, and Andrea Sansovino.
  • There are many gift shops in and around St. Peter's, and a small restaurant on the roof.
  • Without going through the security queue, you can access the gift shop on the left (south) side of the Charlemagne Wing.
  • There is also a book shop here, near the basilica exit.
  • The Information Office is on the left (south) side wing of St. Peter's, often called the Charlemagne Wing
  • There are three main restroom areas
  • It is possible to get married in the Chapel of the Choir at St. Peter's Basilica.
  • The Scavi 90 min. tour into the Excavations of the Necropolis (City of the Dead) underneath St. Peter's, is one of the most interesting in all of Rome, but you must book well in advance.
  • On Sundays at noon, the pope usually (if he's in town) appears at the second window from the right of the Apostolic Palace, to pray the Angelus and bless the crowd in the Square.
  • Vox Mundi Website 
  • Tickets for the museum can be purchased online using major credit cards. Tickets can also be purchased from the Ticket Office, open Monday to Saturday, from 9am to 4pm.
  • Several exhibitions are held each month that offer a glimpse into art and history.
  • The four-poster, solid-bronze canopy over the main altar, or the baldacchino of St. Peter’s, appears almost dwarfed by the dome towering right above it. So you might think it’s not that tall. But it is. It’s almost 10 stories tall—it’s just that the dome, above it, is even bigger: 452 feet.
  • It has a 211.5 meter long nave (694 ft, including the narthex). The basilica's dome is one of the world's largest measuring 42 meters in diameter and reaching 132.5 meters high (more than 434ft).
  • The 45.5 meters (149 ft) high facade is crowned with 5.7 meter tall statues of Christ, John the Baptist and the apostles except for St. Peter. On either side are huge clocks supported by angels and decorated with ornaments and the papal crest. They were added in the early nineteenth century and are the work of Giuseppe Valadier. Below the clock on the left you can see the church bells.
  • Five entrances lead to the narthex (the lobby area) of the church, where you find an equestrian statue of Charles the Great on the left and another equestrian statue of Emperor Constantine, created by Bernini.
  • The Baroque masterpiece is crafted from bronze that was taken from the ceiling and pediment of the Pantheon. The design of the spiraling columns was inspired by marble columns that originally adorned the crypt of the old basilica.
  • The confessio is located right below the majestic dome.
  • The floor of the basilica has a colorful marble pattern.
  • There is a viewing platform at the base of the lantern from where you can enjoy an unparalleled panorama over Rome.
  • Two copies exist of the statue of St.Peter: one in Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral; the other in Co-Cathedral of the Most Holy name of Christ in Jerusalem.

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