Around the World in 80 Clicks

inspiring you to travel

Vatican City: Saint Peters Basilica

Mission accomplished image

Saint Peters Basilica | Vatican City | Europe

[Visited: April 2011 and several times before]

At the height of the Renaissance, in the early 16th century, Pope Julius II decided that the Catholic church needed a new basilica which would overshadow all other Catholic buildings in the world. Initially, Bramante was the main architect of the new building, but it was Michelangelo who made the fundamental design of the Saint Peter as we know it now. Later on, other architects added more elements like the enormous square inside the double-colonned portico - all together, they are what we know now as the Saint Peter. Construction eventually took some 120 years, until the basilica was consecrated in 1626. You can enjoy the Saint Peter basilica from the outside, from the inside and, if you are willing to walk stairs, from above, which will allow you views over the Eternal city, but also the Vatican Gardens and Saint Peters square.

Picture of Saint Peters Basilica (Vatican City): View of Saint Peters square and basilica

While the main dome of Saint Peters basilica is visible from many parts in Rome, when you walk on its square, it disappears behind the façade of the basilica. Michelangelo intended the cupola to be seen from below, but the later additions now largely block the view. Nevertheless, it is thrilling to walk from the Castel d'Angelo towards the Saint Peter. A wide avenue, often filled with tourists, flows towards the famous landmark. Without noticing it, somewhere before entering the square you cross the Italian-Vatican border. As you enter the square itself, it opens up on both sides, an obelisk taken here by the Romans from Egypt in the middle, and double colonnaded porticoes topped by statues of saints mark the borders of oval Saint Peters square. While saints watch you from above the colonnade, you walk across the square and are screened before entering the basilica of Saint Peter itself. Once on its doorstep, and looking up, the size of the building starts to sink in. On the square, from a distance, visual effects make Saint Peters look almost modest, but once you look up the gigantic Corinthian columns, and the tall doors, you start to feel smaller and smaller.

Picture of Saint Peters Basilica (Vatican City): Looking up to the main dome of Saint Peters basilica

This sense of smallness increases inside: the nave that seems endless, the incredibly width of the main nave and the enormous chapels on the side, the large decorations on the floor, all topped by the ceiling that is high above your head, make for a daunting experience. Apart from its size, Saint Peters also impresses by the elaborate and exquisite art everywhere. Statues, sculptures, golden angels, frescoes, altars, mosaics - most made by famous artists, make for a rich experience. Right in the middle of the basilica, you can find the tomb of Saint Peter, near the baldacchino over the papal altar, while at the very end, the dove of the Holy Spirit is easily recognized, as it lights up amidst the golden rays. Besides exploring the extremely rich interior of Saint Peters basilica, you can also go up the main dome, either taking stairs or an elevator for the first stage. You will walk into the dome from the outside; once inside, you will find yourself right at the base of the dome, close to the inscription of Matthew. You have awesome views of the basilica which suddenly appears far below you. Unfortunately, an iron fence blocks the view a little bit. You can still go higher: climbing another 320 steps, on stairs that are always narrower and where you sometimes have to walk in a slant way, will take you right at the lantern of the dome. You step out into the sun, and below you, spectacular views of Saint Peters square, and the city of Rome reveal themselves.

Picture of Saint Peters Basilica (Vatican City): Colonnade with statues of saints around Saint Peters square
Picture of Saint Peters Basilica (Vatican City): Illuminated dove of the Holy Spirit which can be found above the cathedra, the throne of Saint Peter
Picture of Saint Peters Basilica (Vatican City): Main nave of Saint Peters basilica
Picture of Saint Peters Basilica (Vatican City): Angel statue above a statue of Saint Peter inside Saint Peters basilica
Picture of Saint Peters Basilica (Vatican City): The balustrade of the Saint Peters basilica with statues of Christ and apostles
Picture of Saint Peters Basilica (Vatican City): Some of the many statues that can be found on and around Saint Peters Basilica
Picture of Saint Peters Basilica (Vatican City): View over Saint Peters Square, Tiber river, and Rome from the top of Saint Peters Basilica
Picture of Saint Peters Basilica (Vatican City): Interior view of one of the many cupolas of the Saint Peters Basilica
Picture of Saint Peters Basilica (Vatican City): Statues of saints and cupola of Saint Peters Basilica
Picture of Saint Peters Basilica (Vatican City): Lantern of Saint Peters Basilica
Picture of Saint Peters Basilica (Vatican City): Entrance to the confessio where the tomb of Saint Peter can supposedly be found
Picture of Saint Peters Basilica (Vatican City): Seal of a pope on the floor of Saint Peters basilica
Picture of Saint Peters Basilica (Vatican City): Detail of richly decorated ceiling above the entrance to the basilica

Around the World in 80 Clicks

Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Saint Peters Basilica (Vatican City). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Saint Peters Basilica.
Read more about this site.

Follow us