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Saint Peter's Basilica in Vatican City





 The Vatican - Saint Peter's Basilica

Saint Peter's Basilica

Maderno's nave looking towards the Baldacchino

The majestic physical structure we see today as St. Peter's Basilica was not the first church that was built on this site. The original Basilica was started in the fourth century and cobbled together over the succeeding centuries.  It was damaged by an earthquake in the 8th century and languished for a long period afterwards. 

The initial architect of today's version of Saint Peter's was Donato Bramante (early 16th century), who envisioned a church in the form of cross topped by an enormous dome standing on four massive pillars.  His overall plan was followed, but on his death he  was replaced by a design team that included Raphael (who died several years later).  Eventually, after more administrative changes,  the role of finalizing the design fell to an aging Michelangelo. 


Michelangelo is credited with  executing the final design.  He retained and some feel enhanced certain aspects of Bramante's original design, although he clearly added new elements.

St. Peter's is an extremely large church that can hold over 50,000 visitors.  The facade of this glorious building was designed and executed by Maderno in the 17th century.  The facade is topped with an attic that is crowned with a statues of Christ and the Apostles. Although many complain that the facade is poorly designed, we think it fits just right, giving the entrance for stately, formal look.            

          The exterior facade of St. Peter's Bailica was designed by Moderno

Bernini's Balacchino tops the main altar at St. Peter's Other additions to Saint Peter's (for example, the nave added by Maderno) were made to finish the  building for its official consecration in the early 17th century.  It is relatively easy to notice the additions to the original plan.

The interior of Saint Peter's features an number of outstanding artistic triumphs.   Gianlorenzo Bernini worked on decorating the Basilica for most of his life and his bronze Baldachchino underneath the dome and above the altar is regarded by many as his best work.   In a curious footnote to history, a portion of the bronze that was used to create the Badacchino was harvested from the Pantheon.

Bernini"s St. Peter's Chair (Cattedra Petri), located in the apse of the Basilica is another of  his incredible works.  The throne is encased by a stunning set of statues of the Doctors of the Church (Saints Ambrose, Augustine, Athanasius and John Chyrsostom) illuminated by natural light shining through colored glass.  The overall effect of the work, (see below) is awe inspiring.

There are many features and much artistry to see in Saint Peter's and weThe Chair of St. Peter by Bernini is an amazing presentation. suggest you take a guided tour to add to your appreciation of this important monument.

If you are a follower of Catholic Church history, you might be interested in seeing the excavations beneath the Basilica. The tours require advanced reservations. For information on visiting see the official Vatican website.  (Use Google Translator, if the English language version of the site is not available).

           The stunning dome of St. Peter's is one of the tallest in the world

The dome of St. Peter's is a visual extravaganza and an architectural masterpiece.  It is reputed to be one of the tallest domes in the world and also one of the largest.  Unlike many other domes of this type, its 14,000 tons of weight are supported by four large piers, rather than by a continuous wall. There is a fee to visit the top of the dome, and steps to climb after the lift, but the view of the Vatican is worth the effort.

                 Michelangelo's Pieta Chapel is one of the most visited areas of Saint Peter's.

The Pieta ("The Pity")  by Michelangelo is one of his most famous works and was completed during a two-year period early in the "Master's" career.  Dating from the beginning of the 16th century, the Pieta is renowned for its realistic look and the choice of youthful-looking, serene Virgin Mary as she holds Christ's body shortly after the Crucifixion.  Located in what is known as the Pieta Chapel, the Pieta is protected by glass, due to an unfortunate incident in 1972 when a deranged man attacked and damaged the statue with a hammer (it has since been repaired).

See this page from the Vatican's website for practical information on visiting St. Peters.

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The location of St. Peter's Basilica is sacred to Catholics. They believe that the crypt in which St. Peter was buried after his martyrdom, is located below the altar of the Basilica





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St. Peter's holds services daily. Daily Mass Schedule: 9, 10, 11,12,17 (at various altars).

 Sundays and Holiday Mass Schedule: 9, 10.30, 11.30, 12.15, 13, 16, 17.30

Immodest dress is considered inappropriate and may deny you entry to St. Peter's Basilica.

Bare shoulders and legs bare above the knee are not allowed, so shorts and tank tops are usually out of the question. Try something with sleeves, wear slacks (jeans) or a skirt or dress that falls below the knees.















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