St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican – photo essay and tourist information

Rome, Italy - St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City (23) - Interior ceiling and arches along north transept

 St. Peter’s Basilica

The late Renaissance church of St. Peter’s Basilica is arguable the most famous church in the world, and an absolute wonder of religious construction. It is the prominent building in the Vatican, the largest Christian church in the world and, according to a Christian legend, the final resting place of the disciple and first Pope, St. Peter.

St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican - photo essay and tourist information: Rome, Italy - St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City (9) -  Grand east façade of St Peter's Basilica

The basilica was designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and was built to replace the 4th century ‘Old St. Peter’s Basilica’ in the 16th century.

Originally constructed on the shape of a Greek cross, it has been remodelled countless times, leaving an elongated nave, Michaelangelo’s imperious dome, which dominates Rome’s skyline and a strikingly Baroque interior that might be considered tacky if it wasn’t for its domineering grandeur.

St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican - photo essay and tourist information: Rome, Italy - St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City (23) - Interior ceiling and arches along north transept

The space is huge and can hold 60,000 standing worshippers whilst the imposing façade, standing at 114 metres wide and 45 metres tall is supported by giant Corinthian columns and topped with 13 statues, depicting Christ flanked by eleven of the Apostles (excepting Peter, who has a statue to the left of the stairs) and John the Baptist.

St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican - photo essay and tourist information: Rome, Italy - St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City (16) - Grand east façade with statue of St. Peter


Main Features

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St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican - photo essay and tourist information: overhead view of St. Peter's Basilica - vatican.va

Apse – contains the Chair of St. Peter, which dates back to 875 and was donated by Charles the Bald upon his coronation in the basilica.

St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican - photo essay and tourist information: Rome, Italy - St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City (56) - Apse with St. Peter's Cathedra

Dome – designed by Michaelangelo and rising to 1200m. It is made of brick, is parabola in shape and can be climbed for spectacular views across the Vatican and Rome.

St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican - photo essay and tourist information: Rome, Italy - St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City (45) - Interior shot of dome

Right transept & aisle – contains the chapels of St. Nicholas (with relics of St.Peter), St. Sebastian and the spacious Chapel of the Sacrament.

Left transept & aisle – Interesting features include: Altar of Our Lady of the Column, an ancient image of the Virgin Mary from the original basilica, 4th-century sarcophagus that holds the remains of 3 popes and the altars of St. Peter’s Crucifixion, St. Thomas and St. Joseph.

St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican - photo essay and tourist information: Rome, Italy - St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City (60) - Chapel along the south transept

Nave – is elongated and divided into 3 bays, each adorned with statues filling the niches cut into the epic pilasters. There are 39 statues in total, each dedicated to saints who founded religious orders.

St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican - photo essay and tourist information: Rome, Italy - St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City (35) - central nave and altar

Choir chapel – is large, sumptuous, strikingly baroque and contains the altar of the Immaculate Conception.

Pieta – the only statue ever signed by Michaelangelo: Pieta sits in the chapel of the same name and depicts the body of Jesus lying on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion.

St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican - photo essay and tourist information: Rome, Italy - St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City (22) - Pieta by  Michelangelo

❽ Altar of St. Jerome – below which is the final resting place of Pope John XXIII who died in 1963. The plan was to move his body from the Basilica in 2001, but when his tomb was cracked open, his body was found to be incorrupt and was instead placed in the glass case we see today.

St. Peter’s square – designed by Bernini and built between 1656-1667 notable features include: the monumental colonnades, symbolising the embrace of the Catholic Church and are so perfectly formed that if you stand on one of the two points marked with a circular stone, the columns line up perfectly and appear to be just a single row; the central obelisk, which dates back to 13th century Egypt and two beautiful fountains.

Rome, Italy - St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City (79) - Close up of Obelisk on St. Peter's square, taken from Basilica roof


Visiting the Vatican

St. Peter’s Basilica

Opening timesApr-Sep: 7 am – 7 pm Oct-Mar: 7 am – 6 pm
Price: free
Waiting times can be very long, so arrive early and be patient.

St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican - photo essay and tourist information: Rome, Italy - St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City (48) - The altar with Bernini's baldacchino

The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica

 It’s worth it for the stunning views over the city.
The entrance is at the portico of the Basilica.
Opening timesApr-Sep: 8 am – 6 pm. Oct-Mar: 8 am – 5 pm.
Price: with lift: 7€ without lift: 5€

St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican - photo essay and tourist information: Rome, Italy - St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City (74) - St. Peter's square and Rome, from Basilica roof

Vatican Grottos

The entrance is at the transept of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Opening timesApr-Sep: 8 am – 6 pm. Oct-Mar: 8 am – 5 pm.
Price: free

Vatican Museums

The entrance is on Viale Vaticano.
Opening timesNov-Feb: Mon-Fri: 10 am – 1.45 pm. Mar-Oct: Mon-Fri: 10 am – 4.45 pm, Sat: 10 am. – 2.45 pm & last Sun of month: 9 am – 1.45 pm.
Price: General Admission: 16 € Reduced: 8 € Free: last Sun of the month
Queues are long, so to book tickets in advance here.

St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican - photo essay and tourist information: Rome, Italy (369) - Vatican Museum


Gallery

St Peter's Basilica - photo essay and tourist information

written by: Jon

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