This is a monumental place worthy of a State, and it will take a good couple days to see it all in detail. We are not into long lines and there were, so I leave you with the outside square of St Peter's. The rest of the time we came by here was to shop by the castel san angelo nearby.
Books have been written here about it, so just to know its the center of Roman Catholicism in the world, and great history attached to it.
The square is a movement, people of all countries sharing one belief it is extraordinary even to be there. of course ,its a must to see;whether you have the time to sit outside in long lines is another matter;only for the diehards.
The Cathedral alone is 219 meters long, 136 meters high ,and with interior dimensions of 188 meters long and 154,60 meters wide with 119 meters high. Located on the right bank of the river Tiber opening towards the nice big square Saint-Peter.
here is more info on it from a good site
A visit to San Pietro is always a great moment of cultural, spiritual and artistical life (you may line up my words in a different way depending on what comes first to your mind).
So much has been written about the head basilica of Christianity that I don't see what to add to the many comments. Therefore I just made a travelogue with some photos from before the scaffolds.
Oh yes, I liked the modern floor cleaning machine.
The crown jewel of the Roman Catholic faith, the Basilica of St. Peter is the second-largest church in the world and certainly among the most beautiful. The interior is positively vast - so big that the monuments, statuary and other embellishments that grace the aisles and chapels don't appear to be as enormous as they are until you stand next to them.
This is another of Rome's treasures much too important to cover in a paragraph or two. The shrine of the martyred St. Peter and his tomb in the necropolis, as well as tombs of many of the popes, draw Catholic pilgrims from around the world. For the rest of us, San Pietro's collection of art and architecture captivate and move you with their powerful, elaborate or deeply emotional beauty: Bernini's glorious baldacchino and Throne of St. Peter, Michelangelo's Pieta and dome, and many other priceless mosaics, marbles and bronzes.
The basilica is also one of Rome's best bargains as it's free except for limited, pre-booked tours to the necropolis, elevator service partway to the dome, and entrance to the treasury. Here are a few good tidbits to know before you go:
• You will need to pass through an airport-like security check with the same restrictions on knives, scissors, etc. The line starts to the right side of the basilica as you are facing it. The line can be VERY long but it moves fairly quickly. I recommend getting here just before the opening hour or late in the day for shortest waits.
• No shorts, miniskirts or bare shoulders allowed, women OR men. Although some tourists claim to have gotten in with uncovered knees, most others have not so don't risk it. Also avoid wearing t-shirts with verbiage or images that might be considered risque or offensive.
• Baby strollers are not allowed
• There's no entrance to the Vatican Museums from here - although many tours of the museums end up in the basilica
• Photography is allowed but no flash or tripods
• Although it's a major tourist destination, San Pietro is, first, a church. Enough said. You will probably experience a few annoying visitors abusing the no-flash rules, talking loudly, leaning on stuff they shouldn't and generally being disrespectful. Sad.
• Make a potty stop before you go. There are some restrooms about - mostly outside the church - but they're generally pretty hard to find. There are some available on the dome level if you make the climb up.
You may hire a guide but you don't really need one; this website has very good, very complete information which may be downloaded before you go (we did):
Audioguides are also available. The Vatican has a website in 6 languages but I can never get the English tab to work so the second one here is a better resource for current, basic visiting info:
Rick Steves also offers a downloadable tour for MP3 players:
Before I went to St. Peter’s, I had always thought that there was just one row of Doric columns around the square, but in fact there are four. From most places in the square, you can see the four rows of columns – but on either side of the central obelisk you will find a porphyry disc in the ground which, if you stand on it, it creates the illusion that there really is only one row of columns.
These two magnificent colonnades were designed by the master sculptor Bernini in the mid-1600s in the shape of an ellipse contain 284 Doric columns and 88 pilasters. At the top of the two colonnades are 96 statues of saints and martyrs. The two colonnades meet at St. Peter’s Basilica at the triple staircase and the statues of St. Peter and St. Paul, providing a striking entryway into this favorite church. Of course, you cannot enter St. Peter’s Basilica from here directly – you have to go through the security process to the right of the church first.
I highly recommend viewing St. Peter’s Square and the colonnades from the dome. The view from above really puts Bernini’s work into perspective and you can see this wonderful piece of architecture from a whole new level.
The obelisk in the center of St. Peter’s Square was brought from Alexandria for Augustus in AD 37 and it is believed that this obelisk was in Caligula’s circus (Circus of Nero). It is a plain obelisk and has no hieroglyphics on it. The obelisk is 25.5 meters (83.6 feet) tall.
The obelisk came to St. Peter’s Square in 1586 under the order of Pope Sixtus V. It took 900 men, 150 horses, and nearly 50 cranes to move the obelisk from the circus to the square.
Around the base of the obelisk is a mariner’s compass and shows the names of the four winds. At the top of the obelisk is a cross, but this has only been since it was placed in the center of St. Peter’s Square (1586); prior to that there was a globe on top of the obelisk. The globe can be seen in the Capitoline Museums.
The high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica rests over the tomb of St. Peter and under the ornate canopy commissioned by Pope Urban VIII in 1624; designed by Bernini, this canopy, or baldacchino, creates a focal point in the massive building towards the altar.
Because of the size of the building, without the baldacchino, the altar would disappear, seemingly swallowed up under the church’s dome – it is out of proportion to the sheer scale of the building. By adding the canopied baldacchino, the emphasis is again on the altar since you can see the canopy from the back of the nave.
The baldacchino was created from bronze taken from the Pantheon. It has four gilded columns whose bases are decorated with the coat of arms of the Barberini family (Pope Urban’s family) – recognizable by the three bees in the central part of the shield. You can find these bees on the festoons and tassels at the top of the canopy. The columns demonstrate amazing workmanship with the upward spirals.
Only the pope can celebrate mass at this high altar and it rests over top the niche where St. Peter’s tomb resides. The altar itself was created from a block of Greek marble that was found in the Forum of Nerva.
As you make your way up the nave of St. Peter’s Basilica towards the altar, there is a seated bronze statue of St. Peter under a canopy on the last column on the right hand side. You will probably notice the crowd lined up in front of it before you actually see the sculpture.
This statue of St. Peter was created by Arnolfo di Cambrio in the late 1200s, although it was previously thought to have existed since the 5th century. It is a bronze figure of Peter seated on a marble throne. On festivals days, the statue wears a robe.
Many people have rubbed and/or kissed the feet of this statue, with Peter’s right extended foot getting the most attention (thus the line of people and the guard keeping the crowd orderly and the line moving quickly). Because of all this touching over the centuries, the bronze foot has actually worn down to where his toes have lost their shape.
I didn’t stand in line to see it, but was able to get a good view of the statue from behind the guard (most people were lined up on the other side). To get a photo, I just had to be quick since there are only a few seconds between people posing in front of the foot to touch it, kiss it, or have their photo taken.
As you first enter St. Peter’s Basilica, you will most likely notice the throng of people to your right. They are admiring Michelangelo’s statue of the Pieta (Mary holding the dead Christ). The sculptor created the magnificent piece of Carrara marble in 1499 when he was only 24 years old! It was commissioned by the French ambassador Cardinal Jean de Bilheres de Lagraulas and it is exquisite in its craftsmanship and design.
Unfortunately, you cannot get too close to the sculpture because it is behind bullet proof glass. In 1972, a crazed man entered the church and attacked the statue with a hammer, chopping off Mary’s nose (since repaired from marble taken from Mary’s back).
This is the only piece by Michelangelo that he actually signed. The story is told by early biographer Vasari that the artist overheard people talking and gave another sculptor credit for the work. Enraged by what he heard, he hid in the building until it was closed and then carved the words “Michelangelo Buonarroti, Florentine, made this” on Mary’s sash.
There is some controversy over the age and size of Mary – she is not only much younger looking than her Son but she is also larger than him as well. A number of theological reasons have been given but it is all speculation since we don’t know what Michelangelo was thinking. The artist was well versed in his Catholic theology and he is quoted as saying that a chaste woman would not age like other women, so Mary, being a virgin, would remain young looking most of her life. She is also larger, representative of the Catholic Church’s teachings that the Virgin was the Church.
The sculpture is highly polished, giving it a beautiful shine – unlike many of his other sculptures that remain either unfinished or with a rough finish.
It is worth the time to patiently wait to get close to the window to see this piece of art. You can take a photo of it – don’t use your flash since it will only reflect off the glass.
St. Peter’s Basilica is an impressive building. Surprisingly though, it is neither a cathedral nor the “mother church” of the Catholic religion (that distinction is held by Rome’s St. John Lateran). St. Peter’s was built overtop the site of Peter’s tomb and the site of a church built by the first Christian Roman emperor Constantine. In the mid-1500s, the church was expanded and built to an even grander and more elaborate building closer to what we see today (this was during the time of Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling and Raphael painting Pious II’s rooms in the Vatican).
There is so much to see in St. Peter’s – plan on a minimum of an hour (not including waiting in security). If you plan to climb the dome, that would be additional time. We spent about half a day in the complex and still didn’t see everything.
First things first – dress appropriately! Not so much a problem in the winter, but in the hot summer, you will not be allowed inside without your legs and shoulders covered. This means no shorts and no tank tops. You don’t want to wait in long security lines only to find you are not allowed inside.
Security – everyone goes through this – bags are run through scanners and you walk through the screening arch. Not a problem but the lines can get long in the summer – although we were there at the end of February and were only in line for about 10 minutes. As you approach the security point, have your metal items out of your pockets and everything ready to be screened (don’t be one of those people that wait until you are at the screening area and then be surprised that you have to be screened - be prepared and it speeds things up for everyone).
Once you are through security, it is decision time: to enter the church or climb the dome?? If you plan to climb the dome – do it first! If you exit the church and decide to climb the dome, you may have to go through security again. So as you approach the church, and before the stairs, you will see signs directing you towards the dome climb – turn there for the climb or continue up the stairs for the church.
As you enter the church, take some time to simply take in the sight – it is massive! Stand at the back and look down the nave towards the altar – it seems so far away (because it is far away). Then turn to your right and look at what many people come to the church to see – Michelangelo’s Pieta. It is behind glass due to an attack on the statue in the 1970s (why would anyone want to ruin this great piece of art?!).
Head up the nave. In the center marked by a barrier, are the names of churches around the world. These markers indicate where the other churches would fit inside St. Peter’s. Look at the massive columns on either side of the nave – don’t you feel tiny?!? The statues that decorate these columns are very large (even the cherubs are adult human size) to be in proportion to the size of the building.
There is so much to see from the high altar and St. Peter’s statue, to the dome and the baldachino. I highly recommend you get an audio tour or use a book, such as The Blue Guide – Rome to help you understand everything you are seeing. A free audio tour that is pretty good historically and points out the highlights is the Rick Steves’ audio tour that you can download free from iTunes. There are several for sights around Rome – we used these on our trip and found them to be just right for most people with just enough history for most people without overwhelming you. For those who are looking for more details – get a book and read up before or after your visit.
The church is open from 7:00 am – 6:30 pm. It is free unless you do the extras (such as the dome climb). Tours of the necropolis are only done for groups.
If you are in the mood for some exercise coupled with magnificent views of Rome, then consider climbing the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica! Hubby and I seem to be climbing lots of things since we’ve been in Europe – cathedral bell towers, domes, castle towers - really anything that has steps finds us going up them (I’m not always the willing participant in these at the beginning, but at the end I’m always happy I did the climb!).
You have two options with the dome climb – you can take the steps all the way up from the ground level (537 steps) or you can take the elevator part of the way up and then climb the remaining 300+ steps. Using the elevator costs €7 (2012 prices) while taking the steps all the way saves you €2 for the bargain price of €5 (and your thighs get a better workout for less!).
Once you are through security for the church and walking towards the building, it is decision time: to enter the church or climb the dome?? If you plan to climb the dome – do it first! If you exit the church and decide to climb the dome, you may have to go through security again. So as you approach the church, and before the stairs, you will see signs directing you towards the dome climb – turn there for the climb or continue up the stairs for the church.
You will find a cashier at the end of the pathway and the guard will direct you to either the elevators or the steps. Really, taking the steps all the way up was not a problem since the first 200 steps are very easy – they are not steep and are rather wide. At the mid-way point, where the elevator people meet up with you is where the steps get more compact, a bit claustrophobic, narrow and steep – the reason is because the first part was simply going up the side of the church; at this point you actually begin to climb the dome itself.
From this point, you enter the base of the dome and are actually inside St. Peter’s looking down on the people below. Notice the mosaics on the walls and the size of the pictures that are a bit distorted so that those on the ground can view them properly. After walking part way around the base of the dome, you head through a doorway on your way up to the top. In places it gets very narrow and you actually walk a bit tilted because the ceiling is tilting inwards due to the curvature of the dome.
Note: If you are slow or taking your time, step aside when you have opportunities (at windows, etc.) to allow those behind you to pass. Because there is only room for one person at a time, if you are stuck behind really slow people, it is not as enjoyable; so please be considerate.
Once you reach the top, you come out on the lantern at the top. From there you can walk completely around the top view all of Rome, looking down on St. Peter’s Square and the Vatican Museum. After having your fill of the views, find the staircase down and begin your descent (which goes much faster than going up!). You reach that same halfway stop and can go out almost to the edge of St. Peter’s façade, looking at the backs of the statues. From here there are bathrooms and a nice photo opportunity of the dome. I saw some people having lunch while taking a break here.
Continue down the steps and back into St. Peter’s, next to the Baptistry. If you are planning to tour the church now, I highly suggest you proceed to the back and enjoy the church from that area as a starting point.
We were so fortunate to have a beautiful day when we climbed the dome – it was absolutely wonderful! And the exercise made that pizza at lunch taste so much better!
Wow!!! what an amazing place! the artwork inside is absolutely beautiful, stunning. There is so much to see in here. we spent a good couple of hours wandering around, admiring the sculptures and the artwork that was in there. Even the floor is amazing. There are many different areas for worship, and services are performed throughout the day which you are free to attend, no ticket required. What i would say is please show some respect. This is at the end of the day a place of worship. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't film or take photographs of services when they are on - please show some respect. It is quite bad they have to have 'bouncers' telling people not to take photographs whilst a service is taking place - to me that is common sense!!
Fortunately for me at least I had been to St Peter's Basilica and up its dome and to the Vatican Museums/Sistine Chapel on my first trip to Rome as a child. I say fortunately because we arrived at St Peter's to find a huge queue snaking and spiraling all the way across the square. It looked as if you may have had to camp out for days to get in. Needless to say we did not.
Once you are at the very top, make full use of your camera as those photographs will be the ones you will treasure most of your visit to the cupola. The view is magnificent. The muscles will ache next morning but that's tomorrow. For the moment, enjoy the panoramic scene laid out before you.
First Written: Oct. 02, 2012
At the extreme right of the basilica there is the entrance to the steps and the elevator which take you to the top of the cupola. The admission fee is Euro 5,00 for the 551 steps or Euro 7,00 for the elevator and the remaining 320 steps. If you are feeling energetic, by all means take the stairs, else, the elevator will do part of the job. Either way, after you buy your ticket, you wait in line and when the guard waves you forward, you go ahead.
After you have availed the elevator, the view from the top is stupendous. Rome stretches out before you. The most prominent features will, of course, be the Pantheon and the Coliseum. Try and figure those out. You can also see the statues of the saints lining the facade of St. Peter's Basilica. You can then browse around in the gift shop or sip a cup of coffee in the coffee shop there.
If you wish to go beyond that, be aware that the steps get narrower and narrower towards the top, the walls start bearing down on you and you will have to lean a bit to your left as you climb up. On your return, you will be leaning in the opposite direction. As you climb up, you'll pass several small windows. You may rest against them and then click a few photographs from them of the view outside.
First Written: Oct. 02, 2012
The Basilica is really huge. Its length is roughly 624 ft (190 m) long, the height is 150 ft (45.50 m) and it is 190 ft (58 m) wide. The dome is almost 450 ft (136 m) high. The moment you enter, you are struck by the sheer vastness of the space; it's like entering a mammoth stadium. You will immediately notice a roped off middle portion which, on closer inspection, will reveal markings of the lengths of the other Churches in the world.
If you look to your right, you will see Michelangelo’s Pieta, shielded by thick bullet-proof glass. This was crafted when he was barely 24 years old, in 1499. Take your time over it. I had read in the novel by Irving Stone (‘The Agony and the Ecstasy’) that Michelangelo risked his life to visit various morgues in the city to dissect unclaimed corpses so as to properly understand and represent the human body. If you look intently at the lifeless form of Jesus, you will notice the striking resemblance to the human form. And this was when the dissection of human bodies was considered a crime and a persuasion by the devil. The complete limpness of the body of Jesus and the helplessness of His Mother, The Virgin Mary, as she looks at her dead son, is so real that many worshippers are overcome with emotion. And imagine, one lunatic went into the Basilica with a hammer and broke the left arm of The Virgin's statue. After that dastardly attack, the statue is behind a bulletproof glass.
As you walk along towards the altar, innumerable great works of art are there for you to behold and to marvel at. Of particular interest are the statue of Saint Peter Enthroned by Arnolfo di Cambio, one foot of which is almost worn away by the kisses of the faithful and the monument to Gregory XIII by Camillo Rusconi.
Near about the altar are four huge statues representing the passion of Christ. In order of sequence, they are of St Longinus, the soldier who struck the right rib cage of Christ; St Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine who brought the cross and nails used in the crucifixion to Rome; St Veronica, who used a piece of cloth to wipe the face of Christ on the road to Calvary; St Andrew, who was crucified in Greece. In the middle stands Bernini’s baldachin, a ceremonial canopy of bronze over the Papal altar, commissioned by Pope Urban VIII Barberini.
It has four huge twisted columns spiralling upwards, crowned by an equally ornate canopy. The gold dove inside the canopy represents the Holy Spirit. Beneath this is the tomb of Saint Peter, the holiest of the holy place and the site to which millions of devotees throng.
To your left, facing the altar is a small door leading to the basement. Next to it is a lift which brings you from the Sistine Chapel directly to this Basilica. You may also like to explore St. Peter's Treasury which is beyond the sacristy.
First Written: Oct. 02, 2012