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General description for St Peter's Basilica

|  on Feb 4, 2014 11:59:58 AM  |  written by rhysturner92
Version 2
|  on Oct 6, 2011 10:51:19 AM  |  written by I-shalein
|  on Oct 6, 2011 10:49:35 AM  |  written by I-shalein

Version 2

St Peter's Basilica is one big superlative. The enormous church is 211 m long, 186 m wide at its widest point, and 132 m high and can hold 60,000 people.
History of St Peter's Basilica
In 1506 Pope Julius II commissioned Donato Bramante with the construction of a three-naved cathedral on the site of the ancient basilica which Constantine had had erected on top of St Peter's tomb. During its 120-year construction history, Italy's best architects introduced many conflicting models: Bramante designed a floor plan in the shape of a Greek cross with a mighty dome, which at the request of the subsequent popes was turned into a long cross. The nave was not yet completed when Michelangelo followed up on Bramante's ideas in 1546, and started work on a great dome modelled on that of Florence's cathedral. Pope Paul V, in turn, wanted to build the longest nave in Christendom. He commissioned Carlo Maderno with building the annexe and the façade which then however blocked the view of the dome.
Things to see in St. Peter's Basilica
On entering the church, immediately to your right you will see the Holy Door, which is only opened in holy years. Michelangelo's Pietà in the first side chapel on the right has been kept behind bullet-proof glass since its nose was broken off by a mentally disturbed attacker in 1972. At St Longinus' column, the foot of the bronze statue of St Peter shines, polished quite smooth by the many kisses of pilgrims. A marble staircase in front of the papal altar leads to the tomb of St Peter and the final resting place of John Paul II, above which one can see Bernini's heavy bronze baldachin. Because of their great popularity, the actual entrance to the papal tombs and the Vatican Grottos is now in the right side nave. In the apse you can see two further works by Bernini: the cathedra altar which contains the Holy Chair, and the tomb of the Barberini Pope Urban VIIII. To the left in the nave are the entrance to the sacristy and the Vatican Treasury. To the right of St Peter's there is an elevator which goes to the roof, after which there are 320 steep steps to the dome, from where you have a marvellous view of Rome.
Visiting St Peter's Basilica
Opening hours
Open daily from 7am - 6pm (7pm in Summer)
Entrance is free
To see the Sistine Chapel enter through the Vatican Museum

  • Tip: there is a strict dress code: No shorts, bare shoulders or mini skirts, however hot it is!

The world's biggest church is the centre of Catholic Christendom.