The center of Christianity
Saint Peter’s Basilica is the world’s largest church and the center of Christianity located in the heart of the Vatican City. It is built on Vatican Hill, across the Tiber River from the historic center of Rome. The church is located on the site where Saint Peter, the chief apostle, died a martyr and where he was buried in 64 AD. St. Peter is considered the first pope, so it made perfect sense for the papacy to build the principal shrine of the Catholic Church here.
Visitors on their way to the St. Peter’s Basilica pass along St. Peter’s Square which is decorated with fountains and an Egyptian obelisk that was transported to Rome in 37 AD.
The building itself is truly impressive measuring 211 meters long. The basilica’s dome is one of the largest in the world measuring 42 meters in diameter and reaching 132 meters high.
The opulence of the interior bears testimony to the wealth of the Catholic Church in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It is decorated with large monuments, many of which were created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, one of the greatest artists of all time.
One of his main creations invariably draws the immediate attention of visitors: the enormous, twenty-six meter high bronze baldachin over the papal altar. 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 most famous monument in the St. Peter’s Basilica is the Pietà, a marble sculpture of a young looking Mary holding the dead body of her son. It was created in 1499-1500 by Michelangelo at the early age of twenty-five. The monument is located in the first chapel on the right. It is the only work of Michelangelo that bears his signature. He etched his name on the ribbon that runs across Mary’s chest, allegedly after he heard that people attributed his work to another artist. The sculpture was heavily damaged in 1972 when a deranged visitor hit it with a hammer. It is now protected by a bulletproof glass screen.
Location: Piazza di San Pietro, 00120 Vatican City
Nearby hotels: Caesar Place, Vatican Charme, 121 Candia Guest House
Nearby sights: St. Peter’s Basilica, La Pieta, St. Peter’s Square
Official website: http://www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/san_pietro/index_it.htm
Tel.: +39 06 6988 3731