Inside St Peter's Basilica you can spend hours to check the details of the chapels and the altar as well as the high ceiling. The capacity is 60000 people which you can compare with a large football stadium. It is all about timing and being selective in Vatican city since you might get caught with a particular section and you don't realize how time flies away. I suggest you go up to the Cuppola first before entering the cathedral. The exit from the Cuppola will bring you inside. I also add some videos taken inside St Peter's to help you visualize more.
the main apse holds the throne of St Peter. It's actually really hard to see because of the elaborate sculpture surrounding it. Predictably, the sculpture is the work of the great Gianlorenzo Bernini. The throne itself is made of wood and is supposedly original, though it has been inlaid and strengthened over the years.
Interestingly, here there is a unity of Latin and Greek, one each side of the monument there are statues two are greek, two are latin. Same with the inscriptions above, one side is in Latin the other in Greek.
I was particularly taken by the stained glass.
The beautiful bronze canopy over the high altar is called a baldacchino. It is the work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini the great sculptor and architect. It was commissioned by Pope Urban VIII (Maffeo Barberini) and was completed in 1634. The four marble columns are 20 meters (66 feet) high.
Easily one of the most famous masterpieces of sculpture, Michelangelo's Pieta was one of his first commissioned works when he came to Rome at the age of 24. Done in 1498-99, it is also the only sculpture he ever signed. This was also one of his most finished works (you see a lot of unfinished Michelangelo sculptures.)
This sculpture is striking more than anything else because of the tenderness of it. Like Michelangelo's other famous sculptures, the detail is just breathtaking. Really, he was able to make his subject come to life.
St Peter's Basilica is easily one of the most famous places of worship in the world. When you see it on TV you normally will see the piazza in front of it packed with people. I got there very early in the morning and since i was with a tour group we didn't have to stand in the lines, which seemed to move pretty quickly anyway.
The Dome of St Peter's was designed of Antonio Bramante and the great Michelangelo Buonarotti later adapted the original design. The idea was to bring the Renaissance grandeur of Florence to Rome. It would be a cross between the Pantheon in Rome and the Duomo of Florence.
The Dome of St Peter's is the tallest dome in the world, it rises 136.57 meters (448 feet) from floor to the external cross. The tour I was on didn't go up the Dome. If you wish to go up to the top it costs 7 euro to ride the elevator or 5 euro if you want to climb the 323 stairs (all marble, bring good shoes!)
This door is only opened every 25 years during the Holy Year Jubilee. The last opening was in 2000, celebrated by Pope John Paul II. The Pope strikes the wall with a silver hammer and opens the door to pilgrims.
The Door was cast in Bronze by Vico Corsorti in 1950
Alexander reigned from 1665-67. He was the Pope that commissioned Bernini with enclosing St Peter's Square with the colonnade as well as numerous other projects throughout Rome.
Alexander VII was the papal name of Fabio Chigi, from the important family of Sienna bankers. He was also nephew of Pope Paul V (Camillo Borghese) who was also originally from Sienna.
Interestingly, Alexander VII was one of the Popes wrote some of the important pieces on the Church position on heliocentrism (the sun as the center of the universe). He was also responsible for significant work on the Index of Forbidden Books. Alexander, who was favored by Spain, was notable for his conflicts with the French crown. He was at one time an Inquistor on Malta.
Facing the altar there's a beautiful monument - the tomb of Clemente XIII, made in Carra marble by Antonio Canova in 1792.
More than describing it I invite you to read the detailed explanation in Saint Peter's site
Will it be possible to conciliate religiosity with the crowds that invade the space, thousands by day, each day?
Will it be possible to describe the place in less than a large book?
I won’t try. If you may, just go. If you don’t, it would be cruelty, describing what you have to miss. Not me.
Saint Peter's Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world.
Tradition and some historical evidence hold that Saint Peter's tomb is directly below the altar of the basilica.
The interior is of vast dimensions by comparison with other churches.
The entire interior of St Peter's is lavishly decorated with marble, reliefs, architectural sculpture and gilding. The basilica contains a large number of tombs of popes and other notable people, many of which are considered outstanding artworks. There are also a number of sculptures in niches and chapels, including Michelangelo's Pieta. The central feature is a baldachin, or canopy over the Papal Altar, designed by Gianlorenzo Bernini.
The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican, officially known in Italian as Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano and commonly known as Saint Peter's Basilica, is a Late Renaissance church located within Vatican City. While it is neither the mother church of the Roman Catholic Church nor the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, Saint Peter's is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic sites.
In Roman Catholic tradition, the basilica is the burial site of its namesake Saint Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and, according to tradition, was the first Bishop of Rome and therefore first in the line of the papal succession.
Saint Peter's is one of the four churches of Rome that hold the rank of Major Basilica.
You can watch my 3 min 47 sec Video Rome Vatican Basilica of St Peter out of my Youtube channel or here on VT.
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.
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!
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 he 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.