What's in the vault of the Vatican

St. Peter's Basilica

History of St. Peter's Basilica

The history of St. Peter's Basilica begins in the 4th century when Emperor Konsantin decided to build a basilica on the place where the apostle was buried. In 329 the construction of the basilica was completed. The church was used for religious celebrations, as a covered cemetery and as a hall for funeral banquets. During the High Middle Ages it was the main place of pilgrimage in the west. The excavation sites under today's basilica, the descriptions, drawings and ancient paintings give us an idea of ​​what the first basilica was like.

In 1506 Julius II ordered the construction of a new basilica to replace the existing one and commissioned the architect Donato Bramante with this task. Bramante suggested the Greek cross as a floor plan (four side arms of equal length) as in the Byzantine churches of IX. Century ago. When Bramante died in 1514, Raffael Sanzio took over the work and various proposals were discussed until 1521. Raphael died in 1520 and the construction was continued by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, who completed his design for the basilica. When Antonio da Sangallo died in 1546, Michelangelo Buonarrotti was chosen to give the design its final form, simplifying the layout by removing the sacristies with the towers in the corners of the square designed by Bramante; In this way, he transformed the outer boundary to the surroundings into a continuous wall and thus gave the basilica a uniformity and coherence. Michelangelo reinforced the basic structure, as the strength of his idea was to build a large dome on a supporting drum that significantly enlarged the appearance of the basilica in contrast to the original design by Bramante.

The construction was completed by Domingo Fontana and Jacopo de la Porta 24 years after his death. The latter was entrusted with the completion of Michelangelo's design and after his death in 1602 only the facade had to be completed and the forecourt designed. Pope Paul V had the church extended outwards by the architect Carlo Maderno and transformed the Greek cross by Bramante into a floor plan with a Latin cross typical of western churches.

Maderno lengthened the vault of the front arm by adding a row of roofed oval chapels on both sides and, outside, continued the wall designed by Michelangelo, where he emphasized the front part with large columns. The facade was built between 1607 and 1612. In 1614 Gian Lorenzo Bernini was called to carry out the canopy that formed the main altar in the center of the cross on the tomb of the Apostle Paul, which was completed in 1633. After Maderno's death in 1629, Bernini took on the task of completing the decorations inside the entire church, giving it its present-day appearance.

What is Saint Peter today?

St. Peter's Basilica is one of the largest buildings in the world and the largest papal basilica.

St. Peter's Basilica is currently a building 218 meters long, 136 meters high up to the dome and a floor area of ​​23,000 square meters. This basilica is considered a very important work of architecture for its facade and for the quality of its construction. Every year people from all parts of the world come to the interior of the basilica to admire the most beautiful sculptures of all time and to appreciate a building that took centuries to build.

Curiosities about St. Peter's Basilica

Did you know that a million cubic meters of earth had to be dug to complete the necessary excavation for the construction of St. Peter's Basilica? The construction of the current St. Peter's Basilica was commissioned by Pope Julius II (1503-1513), but before that there was already another basilica, which was built by Constantine in 319. By this time the first converted emperor had put an end to the persecution of Christians and had a basilica built to bear the name of the first pope. The ideal place for this construction was the Circus Gai et Neronis, but Constantine ordered the basilica to be built where St. Peter was buried.

Did you know that Michelangelo was only 24 years old when he created the Pietà, which is located inside St. Peter's Basilica? This work has to be viewed up close to be able to admire the genius of this artist's early years. After the attacks on the Pieta in 1972, the sculpture is now behind safety glass.

Did you know that Michelangelo designed today's uniform of the Swiss National Guard that guards St. Peter's Basilica?

Why should you visit St. Peter's Basilica?

St. Peter's Basilica is located in the Vatican and is both the worldwide seat of the Catholic Church and the residence of the Pope. Today's basilica, built on top of that built by Constantine, is the expression of the will of the Renaissance Popes who, with the help of great artists such as Bramante, Michelangelo, Bernini and Maderno, allow us to travel through art, faith and spirituality. Here we can not only admire the splendor of the building, but also walk along the naves, visit the chapels and admire the beauty of numerous works of art, such as the Pietà by Michelangelo. You can currently visit the papal graves in the grottoes of the Vatican and see the tomb of St. Peter and his successors.

How can I visit St. Peter's Basilica?

Entrance to St. Peter's Basilica is free, but given the large number of visitors, it is advisable to book a guided tour to avoid the queue. There are many options: you can book a group tour or a tour with audio guide, you can combine the group tour of the basilica with a tour of the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel or a visit to the mosaic workshop. In addition, you can book a private city guide to visit the basilica, also in combination with other sights. If you want to enjoy St. Peter's Square to the fullest, you can visit it in the company of a private city guide, who can combine it with the Castel Sant'Angelo, which is not far away.

Sights close-by

Not far from St. Peter's Basilica are the Vatican Museums, which are one of Rome's main tourist attractions. Inside are thousands of works of art that the Catholic Church has collected over five centuries.

If you leave St. Peter's Basilica behind you and walk along Via della Conciliazione, you come to Castel Sant'Angelo, which was built as a mausoleum for him and his family during the time of Emperor Hadrian. Later the building became a military fortress and in 403 it was integrated into the Aurelian Wall. In the XI. In the 18th century the fortress came into papal possession and was connected to the Vatican via a fortification corridor called "Passetto". A visit not to be missed!