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St. Peter’s Basilica

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St Peter’s Basilica takes its name from the martyr Saint Peter, who was killed in 64 A.D. during the time when Nero was persecuting Christians.

The original Saint Peter’s Basilica was built by the Emperor Constantin, the first Christian Emperor, in memory of the martyr. The basilica became a symbol of the Christian religion as the official religion in the Roman Empire. The construction started in 324 A.D. and integrated Saint Peter’s grave; the basilica was then consecrated in 329.

By the end of the 15th century, the Saint Peter’s Basilica had fallen to disrepair. In 1503, the architect Bramante was asked to renovate it by Pope Julius II and construction began in 1506. Bramante decided to renovate the basilica following the form of a Greek cross covered by a dome however he died a few years after the renovations had begun. Michelangelo continued the renovation project after Bramante’s death and transformed the dome, taking part in its construction until his own death in 1564. The dome was eventually finished by Giacomo Della Porta in 1590.

Things to see

Many artists and architects worked on this massive undertaking. During the 17th century, Carlo Maderno was inspired by Michelangelo’s plans and built the façade of the Basilica. This façade is 115 meters long and 48 meters high, the capitals of its many columns decorated according to the Corinthian style. The balcony situated above main door is where the pope usually pronounces his blessings. It was the sculptor Bernini who finally finished Saint Peter’s Basilica in 1666.

Nowadays, with its 190 meters in length, the Saint Peter’s Basilica is able to welcome 20 000 people. It is possible to take the stairs to the summit of the dome, which offers a breathtaking view of Saint Peter’s square below and Rome all around.