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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.
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.
·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.
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.
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
By air: L. Da Vinci Airport, Fiumicino, Aeroporto G.B. Pastine Airport, Ciampino
By Train: St. Peter’s 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.
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.