St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican, Rome
Italy 1400AD-Present-Modern Era Europe

St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican – Miraculous center of Christianity

July 9, 2018



TypeBasilica, UNESCO World Heritage Site



Car, plane, train
Architectural stylesRenaissance architecture, Baroque architecture
ArchitectsMichelangelo, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Raphael, and others

When to


    There really is no “best” day for visiting the Vatican, when there are fewer people. The Vatican is Rome’s most popular tourist destination and is pretty much always busy. You might consider Tuesday or Thursday as your best bets. Dates around a weekend are a bit busier, and on Wednesday there is (usually) the Papal Audience. In the mornings, most of the tour groups show up, and many people come early to try to “beat the line,” so you may find the Vatican Museums slightly less crowded in the afternoon. As for the time of year, winter low season months are best.




  • St Peter’s Basilica – free entry but long queues to security check
  • The dress code is strictly enforced at St Peter’s Basilica. Men must wear long trousers (no shorts) and cover their shoulders, women must not have either bare shoulders or skirts shorter than knee length.
  • You can rent audio guides at the entrance to the Basilica


in Rome

Vatican, Italy, Europe

St Peter‘s Basilicathe burial site of Saint Peter

  • St Peter’s Basilica is the most visited Catholic church in the world.
  • The Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican (Italian: Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano), or simply St Peter’s Basilica (Latin: Basilica Sancti Petri), is an Italian Renaissance church in Vatican City, the papal enclave within the city of Rome.
  • The Vatican is its own country – and the smallest in the world. This fact is not new to most people, but was you also aware that there are only about 800 residents of this tiny nation with even fewer citizens? Vatican citizenship is not guaranteed by birth, but by appointment, and is terminal, ending when a citizen discontinues residency.
  • St Peter’s Basilica can accommodate 20,000 people
  • Catholic tradition holds that the Basilica is the burial site of Saint Peter, chief among Jesus’s Apostles and also the first Bishop of Rome. Saint Peter’s tomb is supposedly directly below the high altar of the Basilica
  • Designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, St. Peter’s is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and the largest church in the world
  • One of the most impressive parts of St Peter’s Basilica is its incredible dome. Its design was started by Michelangelo and continued by Giacomo Della Porta. Carlo Maderno finished the dome in 1614.

Vatican Obelisk

  • A large pink granite obelisk can be admired in the center of the square. It was hewn from a single block and stands 25.31 m. high on a base 8.25 m. wide. The obelisk which comes from Heliopolis, Egypt, where it was built by the King Nuncores (according to some documents) in 1835 BC in honor of the sun, was brought to Rome in 37 AD by Emperor Caligula (37-41 AD) St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican, Rome

St Peter’s Basilica – mosaics on the walls

  • The art in St Peter‘s Basilica itself is mostly mosaics, although they resemble paintings. In order to ensure that the artwork in the church would persevere, most “paintings” are actually mosaics.

Baldacchino over St Peter Tomb

  • The baldacchino, or the center altar of St. Peter’s, lies directly over where St. Peter, the first pope, is buried. It is 96 feet high, made from bronze mostly stripped from ancient Roman monuments such as the Pantheon, and the only person who is permitted to say mass at this altar is the pope.St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican, Rome

Treasures inside the St Peter‘s Basilica

Tombs and relics

Over 100 tombs within St Peter’s Basilica

There are over 100 tombs within St Peter’s Basilica (extant to various extents), many located beneath the Basilica.

These include 91 popes, Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Holy Roman Emperor Otto II, and the composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. Exiled Catholic British royalty James Francis Edward Stuart and his two sons, Charles Edward Stuart and Henry Benedict Stuart, Cardinal Bishop of Frascati, are buried here, having been granted asylum by Pope Clement XI. Also buried here are Maria Clementina Sobieska, wife of James Francis Edward Stuart, Queen Christina of Sweden, who abdicated her throne in order to convert to Catholicism, and Countess Matilda of Tuscany, a supporter of the Papacy during the Investiture Controversy.

The most recent interment was Pope John Paul II, on 8 April 2005. Beneath, near the crypt, is the recently discovered vaulted 4th-century “Tomb of the Julii”.


The towers and narthex

In the towers to either side of the facade are two clocks. The clock on the left has been operated electrically since 1931. Its oldest bell dates from 1288.

Mosaic above the external door

One of the most important treasures of the St Peter‘s Basilica is a mosaic set above the central external door. Called the “Navicella”, it is based on a design by Giotto (early 14th century) and represents a ship symbolizing the Christian Church.

Constantine the Great by Bernini

At each end of the narthex is an equestrian figure, to the north Constantine the Great by Bernini (1670) and to the south Charlemagne by Cornacchini

Of the five portals from the narthex to the interior, three contain notable doors.

Renaissance bronze door

The central portal has the Renaissance bronze door by Antonio Averulino (called Filarete) (1455), enlarged to fit the new space.

The door of the Dead

The southern door, the Door of the Dead, was designed by 20th-century sculptor Giacomo Manzù and includes a portrait of Pope John XXIII kneeling before the crucified figure of Saint Peter.

Holy Door

The northernmost door is the “Holy Door” which, by tradition, is walled-up with bricks, and opened only for holy years such as the Jubilee year by the Pope. The present door is bronze and was designed by Vico Consorti.

Holy Water basins

On the first piers of the nave are two Holy Water basins held by pairs of cherubs each 2 meters high.

Watch the floor of St Peter‘s Basilica

Along the floor of the nave are markers showing the comparative lengths of other churches, starting from the entrance.

On the decorative pilasters of the piers of the nave are medallions with a relief depicting 56 of the first popes.

In niches between the pilasters of the nave are statues depicting 39 founders of religious orders.

Set against the northeast pier of the dome is a statue of Saint Peter Enthroned.

The sunken Confessio leading to the Vatican Grottoes contained a large kneeling statue by Canova of Pope Pius VI, who was captured and mistreated by Napoleon Bonaparte’s army. This has now been moved to the back (eastern) end of the grottoes.

In the Confessio is the Niche of the Pallium (“Niche of Stoles”) which contains a bronze urn, donated by Pope Benedict XIV, to contain white stoles embroidered with black crosses and woven with the wool of lambs blessed on St. Agnes’ day.

The High Altar is surmounted by Bernini’s baldachin. (See above)

Set in niches within the four piers supporting the dome are the larger-than-life statues associated with the basilica’s primary holy relics: Saint Helena holding the True Cross and the Holy Nails, by Andrea Bolgi; Saint Longinus holding the spear that pierced the side of Jesus, by Bernini (1639); Saint Andrew with the St. Andrew’s Cross, by Francois Duquesnoy and Saint Veronica holding her veil with the image of Jesus’ face, by Francesco Mochi.

North aisle

In the first chapel of the north aisle is Michelangelo’s Pietà.

On the first pier in the right aisle is the monument of Queen Christina of Sweden, who abdicated in 1654 in order to convert to Catholicism.

The second chapel, dedicated to Saint Sebastian, contains the statues of popes Pius XI and Pius XII. The space below the altar used to be the resting place of Pope Innocent XI but his remains were moved to the Altar of the Transfiguration. This was done to make way for the body of Pope John Paul II. His remains were placed beneath the altar on 2 May 2011.

The large chapel on the right aisle is the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament which contains the tabernacle by Bernini (1664) resembling Bramante’s Tempietto at San Pietro in Montorio supported by two kneeling angels and with behind it a painting of the Holy Trinity by Pietro da Cortona.

Near the altar of Our Lady of Succour are the monuments of popes Gregory XIII by Camillo Rusconi (1723) and Gregory XIV.

At the end of the aisle is an altar containing the relics of Saint Petronilla and with an altarpiece The Burial of St Petronilla by Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri), 1623.


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