Destination Landmarks: St. Peter’s Basilica

View of the Vatican across the Tiber River of Rome, Italy

Since 1929, when the catholic Pope at the time made an agreement with Mussolini, the Vatican has been able to remain an independent state and the smallest one at that; covering only 0.17 square miles. However, despite its small stature, the country plays hosts to some of the world’s most notable tourist attractions, so prioritizing them is important for any visitor.

Why you would want to take a vacation to see this St. Peter’s Basilica 

One of the must-see sights in Italy is the St. Peter’s Basilica. Built back in the 16th to 18th century, this church serves as the centerpiece of the Vatican state. It was built to replace earlier structures that were started in 326 AD, on what is believed to be the burial place of St. Peter. In an ironic twist, it was the selling of indulgences to commission finances for the project in the 16th century that stirred Martin Luther to form the Protestant Reformation.

Must-see artwork

The works by famous artists are quite visible just before you enter the church. In the portico, you will find an equestrian statue of Constantine done by Bernini and pieces of a mosaic by Giotto that are situated above the main doorway. Together with the double bronze doors, this piece is also from the previous church.

The Basilica’s huge nave is 185 meters long and 46 meters tall. It rises 119 meters to the dome above and can accommodate an astounding congregation of more than 60,000 people. Visitors can also compare these dimensions with those of other great churches that are marked in the floor.

On the right, visitors will find Michelangelo’s world renowned Pieta, which he sculpted when he was just 24 years of age. This piece of artwork is however sealed behind reinforced glass. Also on the right, there is the wonderfully decorated Chapel of the Sacrament, with Michelangelo’s rival Borromini’s bronze grille and Bernini’s tabernacle.

Michelangelo’s dome is held on four main pentagonal piers that are impressively huge. Below it, there is Bernini’s magnificent Baroque bronze canopy, which serves as the Papal altar. Tombs of other popes are situated in the right aisle.

Close to the Baptistery are the stairs to the roof, from where you can proceed to climb 330 steep steps found within the dome that will lead you to the lantern where you can take a closer look at the dome’s structure and spectacular views of St. Peter’s Square.

Underneath the church, there is the crypt, where more papal tombs are situated. There is also an excavated cemetery.

Time to visit

Roughly 250 people a day can take a guided tour of these areas. However, the good thing is that you can take trip at any time of the year.