St Peters Basilica: Gem of the Vatican City

Amazing Europe | | January 11, 2011 at 12:05 am


Welcome to the most holy Christian site in the Vatican! This is certainly the St Peters Basilica rising from the old spot where Peter, the first pope as well as apostle was crucified and buried, which holds much religious importance. Further, its original version was commissioned by Constantine in the 4th century and that today it is the home of many tombs of the popes. From the point of view of architectural attraction, this majestic structure is the home of some precious works of Michelangelo.


Before I start to describe about its sweeping grandeur, you should know that this one is a pure basilica; it is not a cathedral. The present building of St Peters Basilica is of the 16th century whose adornments and art reveals the talents of the Renaissance experts like Bramante and Bernini. Speaking about its exterior, the vaulted dome – a parabola soaring high until a two-level lantern – shows the brainchild of Michelangelo. Next, its big facade is the home of many surprises – the central balcony known as the Loggia of the Blessings, which is the venue from where the new pope is declared, a relief below the balcony displaying Jesus giving the keys to Peter, two clocks, and 13 statues. The statues are of Matthew, Thomas, Thaddeus, James the Elder, Philip, Christ (middle), John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, Andrew, James the Younger, Matthias, Simon, and Bartholomew.


You will first see the portico of the St Peters Basilica, which contains the 18th century Charlemagne’s statue in the south as well as a sculpture of Emperor Constantine by Bernini in the south. Then, you have the different doors to marvel: the northern door called the Holy Door that is opened only during great celebrations, the Middle Door, and Filarete Door boasting a panel set in six, which reveals the enthroned Jesus and Mary, St. Paul with a sword as well as his sentenced event, St. Peter giving away the keys to Pope Eugene IV, and martyrdom of St. Paul as well as St. Peter occurring on the Hill of Vatican. Next, the Door of Death in the left tucked far away is meant only for funeral series. Look out for the big relief zones where Jesus’ and Mary’s demise, Joseph’s demise, Abel’s brutal demise, Gregory VII’s death, first pope’s and Pope John XXIII’s death, and demise of Stephen who was the first martyr.

As you go in, its interior become grander and more impressive, which can accommodate more than 60,000 people. This is the home of the majestic Renaissance monuments. Via the central door, a big circular porphyry slab is visible indicating the spot where Charlemagne along with the Holy Roman Kings used to kneel down for coronation. Niches along the pilasters reveal some 39 statues of saints in their sacred orders. Also look out for the Spanish saint called St. Teresa of Avila nestled at the right of the entrance.

At the right aisle as well as transept, the highlight is the Michelangelo’s Pieta showcasing the Mother whose lap is providing cool shade to the crucified Jesus. Just also look over the aisle where the statue of Queen Christina of Sweden is perched, who renounced the world to follow Catholicism. The Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the midway to the transept is the home of stillness, also known as the place of blessed bread and wine. Here, a sacrament resides in a gilded tabernacle along with the 12 statuettes of Apostles including that of the Jesus all sitting on a dome. At the junction of the transepts, Bernini’s Baldacchino is very famous for its papal altar as well as holy relics of St. Peter. Made from dark bronze as well as gold vine leaves, this monument boasts recurring cherubs to give it a look of the Ark of the Covenant. However, it represents the mix of the Christian ritual of Constantine, the renewal of a triumphal church, and the Old Testament knowledge of Solomon.

Below the baldacchino, Confessio is also worth a watch, which is a chapel of St. Peter’s confession. Just gaze at it from the below crypt where a glass wall will welcome you. Behind this, the St. Peter’s tomb can be seen on a side of the Pallium; however, you need to be a part of the Scavi tour. Look also for a coffer where the 8th century Christ mosaic is preserved with a Latin inscription – ‘Jesus is the truth, the way, and the life and that the one who have faith in Him shall live’.

The Cathedral of St. Peter, a big gilded structure at the west end, is now the home of 18 ivory plaques showing 12 Labors of Hercules and 6 monsters – all by Bernini – along with a window of the Holy Spirit that is symbolized as a dove emitting 12 rays (apostles). In the left aisle and transept, you still can encounter a myriad of chapels, altars, and other monuments. Crypt is downwards where there are architectural pieces of the previous structures as well as the tombs of several popes.


Stairs to dome: €4

Elevator to dome: €5

Treasury: €4

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