Visiting St Peter’s Basilica in Rome
The great St. Peter’s Basilica, with its splendid and imposing dome that hangs over the roofs of Rome, is the most important in the Christian world. It is the monument that manages to gather, in a single place, faithful and art lovers. It is dedicated to Saint Peter, chief among the apostles, first Pope and Head of the Church. It represents one of the most visited places in the eternal city, either for its artistic beauty or for hosting the main manifestations of the Catholic faith. But let’s finally lets go to our post: Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome? Here at Your Travel to Italy with Ana Patricia you make the trip of your dreams!!! ALSO: see our “Accommodation in Italy – Tips for your holidays!”
In its imposing square, crowded Christmas and Easter Masses, Holy Week rites, the proclamation and burials of the Popes, the opening and closing of the Jubilee and the canonization of the saints are celebrated. For this reason, for those going to Rome, the visit does not end until they take the opportunity to admire the basilica, the square and the columns that embrace it. Destination of pilgrims from all corners of the Earth, meeting of the faithful, artists and scholars, it is known worldwide, and is the largest papal basilica in Rome, it is among the largest churches ever built.
1) Visiting St Peter’s Basilica in Rome?ABOUT BASILICA
To know the origins of the basilica, it is necessary to go back in time in almost two thousand years. It is not by chance that the basilica is in this place, it was built exactly where the apostle was killed and buried. The work was started by Pope Julius II, in 1506, and completed in 1602 by Paul V. The new building, however, was on top of another pre-existing construction, erected in the 4th century by Constantine, precisely where the Circus of Nero was located, the place where Saint Peter would have been crucified and buried.
The great St. Peter’s Basilica, the most important in the Christian world, is dedicated, as we mentioned earlier, to Peter, the foremost among the apostles, first Pope and Head of the Church. Called Peter by Jesus himself, because he chose him to be “the stone” on which His Church would be built, he was the greatest entrepreneur among the disciples. He was arrested and miraculously released and left Jerusalem to go to Rome (which was the center of the Roman Empire). 05 CHURCHES YOU SHOULD VISIT IN ROME?
Here he was bishop and first pope for 25 years, during the ferocious persecution ordered by Nero, ended up being arrested along with thousands of other Christians and died crucified, around A.C. 64 on the Vatican hill. Contrary to popular belief, Christians were not sentenced at the Colosseum, as is often portrayed in the cinema, but within circuses.
And it was here, where the gigantic Circus of Nero complex sprawled, surrounded by palaces, temples and gardens, that Peter was executed and buried. The area around Circus de Nero, far from the inhabited center, was considered unhealthy and suitable only as a cemetery. Here, shortly after Peter’s martyrdom, a strong veneration began to grow. Over the centuries, when the grand structures of the circus went into ruin, a large necropolis developed with pagan and Christian graves.
When Emperor Constantine decided to erect a large basilica dedicated to Saint Peter in the 4th century, a solid foundation was needed: its architects created a way to thresh the Vatican hill, paving the land on the tombs. Thus was born the first cathedral that, since then, represented the physical and spiritual center of Christianity.
Over the centuries, passing through several pontificates, a long process began, which, around 200 years (and with the help of many artists such as Bramante, Michelangelo, and Bernini), completed the reconstruction of the primitive Constantine church. From an artistic point of view, St. Peter’s Basilica represents the triumph of the admirable Roman Baroque, which clearly outlined the Curia’s desire to present itself to the world in all its magnificence.
Describing this work of art
In a few words, I believe it is impossible to describe it, so let’s take a look at this superb work of art. St. Peter’s Basilica is a reservoir of works of art, it contains hundreds of exquisite marble sculptures and exquisite tombs of illustrious characters (among the authors include Canova and Bernini). LET’S GET TO KNOW RELIGIOUS ROME?
The facade of the temple is all in white marble with properly arranged columns and pilasters, which frame the central portico. Two side arches open from them: the one on the left goes towards the Vatican City. Bordering the portico, there are nine windows with balconies; the most important is in the center, known as the Papal Blessing Window, where the Pope exposes himself to speak with the faithful. Above the windows, there is a balustrade that supports thirteen statues.
The porch leading to the interior has five access doors, each of which has a different history. The best known is the “Porta Santa” (Holy Door), which is only open in the Jubilee years, while The Filarete Door, over seven meters high, is one of the few wonders that remained of the medieval basilica. And, of course, the grandiose dome of Michelangelo, 119 meters high, covers the basilica – also surrounded by smaller vaults of the Gregorian and Clementine chapels. RELIGIOUS TOURISM IN ITALY? DISCOVER THE MAIN LOCATIONS AND ORGANIZE YOUR ITINERARY NOW:)
And finally, there is the Dome of Saint Peter, which is one of the symbols of Rome. To admire the Eternal City from above, it is necessary to climb around 133 meters. This is something you should do at least once in your life! The dome idealized by Michelangelo surprises by its size and harmony, characteristics appreciated in the tiring – but gratifying – climb to the dome, which allows you to admire its beauty up close, whether inside or out.
2) Visiting St Peter’s Basilica in Rome? THE DOME OF ST PETER’S
The Dome of St. Peter is a masterpiece of man’s creative spirit and, over time, has become the symbol of the Church of Rome, place where numerous pilgrims and visitors from every part of the world arrive every day. The Dome of St. Peter in Rome is open to the public throughout the year, from October 1st to March 31th from 8 am to 5 pm and from April 1st to September 30th from 8 am to 6 pm.
Its access is from the portico of St. Peter’s Basilica. Unlike the church entrance, which is free of charge, a fee is charged to climb to the top of the dome. It is possible to go up the stairs for € 5, take an elevator costs € 7 (allows access to the terrace floor, then you have to walk up the 320 steps). There are many stairs, but the view of Rome from the Dome of Saint Peter is unique!
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3) Visiting St Peter’s Basilica in Rome? PIETA BY MICHELANGELO
The Pieta by Michelangelo. Among the many works of art present inside and outside the basilica, there is one that cannot be missed: The Pieta by Michelangelo (work that surprises for centuries, for its technique and emotion).
And also, of course, the wonderful arch of 284 Doric columns and 88 marble pilasters that surround St. Peter’s Basilica, as if they wanted to welcome the faithful who visit it, in a symbolic act of embrace.
The brilliant architecture of the arches was commanded by Pope Alexander VII and designed by Bernini. The arches are arranged radially in four rows of 284 columns, the diameter of which gradually increases, thus maintaining the proportional relationship between the spaces and the columns, also in the outer rows. Thanks to this feat, the viewer, when accessing the porphyry discs around the obelisk, can see the arches as if it were a single row of columns, an architectural show by the masters of art.
4) Visiting St Peter’s Basilica in Rome? INSIDE THE BASILICA
When you walk through the entrance door, the emotion is palpable, the magnitude and splendour of the grand construction are breathtaking! The immensity of the spaces is so huge as to lose the sense of proportions, like the two angels holding the holy water right at the entrance (at first glance they seem small, but after approaching it is possible to notice that they are more than two meters height). It is a kind of mirage that is manifested in all the works of art scattered throughout the basilica.
Funeral Monument of Pope Alexander VII
In the left corridor, the suggestive (and at the same time disturbing) funeral monument of Pope Alexander VII, which is a spectacle of Bernini’s intelligence, represents a giant skeleton that lifts a veil made entirely of marble, discovering the door from beyond, while another hand holds an hourglass, reminding how ephemeral the time of human existence is. It is very emotive, both the work and the meaning it expresses.
Bronze sculpture of Saint Peter
From the center of the basilica it is possible to see, on one side, a relatively small bronze sculpture of Saint Peter, a contrast to the colossal magnitude of the wonders that surround it. The statue illustrates the apostle sitting praying and his feet are literally worn out by the pilgrims so much that they pass their hands, touching the sculpture in devotion for so many centuries. The huge dome of the basilica is covered with an immense mosaic, splendid in its entirety, like a radiant golden plaster. Also, although it is difficult to see from below, almost all of these decorations are ceramic mosaics, so small that from a distance they look like real paintings.
Floor with different tones
These are not the only precious decorations. Below our feet, the floor is a symphony of different tones, studded as if by magic, reflecting exactly the radiant colors of the mosaics around us. There is no floor in the world as vast and as beautiful as this one. A large red porphyry disk from Egypt is also embedded in the floor near the entrance, which still comes from the ancient basilica of Constantine. At the time there were six of these records, this was the only one that survived. It was there that Charlemagne knelt, on Christmas night in the ‘800s, to be crowned emperor.
Watch the Golden Stars
To remember that we are inside the largest church in Christianity, on the floor of the central corridor there are several golden stars that show exactly how much space the largest churches in the whole world would occupy if they were established in the basilica. St. Peter’s Basilica is the result of the creativity and effort of a large number of artists, with its 45 altars, 11 chapels, 390 statues and 10,000 square meters of mosaics. For centuries, this has been the most important place of faith and, above all, the best known in the world.
5) Visiting St Peter’s Basilica in Rome – ST PETER’S TOMB
Visit to St. Peter’s tomb and the necropolis below the Vatican Basilica. The walk through the Vatican cemetery is actually a walk through the centuries; and it is another important aspect of the visit to the Basilica. That’s because it means visiting St. Peter’s tomb, taking the old dirt road that leads to the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles and that crosses a Roman necropolis located under the floor of the Vatican Caves, just below the central corridor of the basilica. Find out here How to visit Saint Peter’s tomb?
The archaeological research was an unprecedented feat that allowed the tomb of Peter to be located on the main altar of the basilica, which remained inaccessible and untouched for almost two thousand years. Find out here which catacombs to visit in Rome. It was in a humble pit, dug over the southern slopes of the Vatican hills, right in front of the circus, the stage for fierce persecutions against Christians in the days of Emperor Nero.
A modest grave on which, a hundred years after the apostle’s martyrdom, a small funerary sanctuary (formerly called “Gaius’s trophy”) was built, indicated Peter’s tomb to early Christians. The tomb, before Constantine, was the destination of the devout pilgrims, witnessed by several engravings painted on a wall, a place destined for worship (on the “G wall”).
Important to Know
- The following Greek letters were engraved on a small piece of plaster: PETR […] ENI. The engraving interprets the phrase “Pétr [os] enì”, which meant “Peter is here”.
- The special visit to the cemetery below the basilica, where Saint Peter’s Tomb is located, is a concession that the church makes before scheduling, prepared by the Excavation Department.
- Due to the great attention for the conservation of the archaeological site, where the original tomb of the Apostle Peter is located, the basilica allows the visit of only 250 visitors a day.
- Tourists (only allowed over 15 years old) are divided according to their language, each group is made up of about 12 participants. The duration of the visit is around one and a half hours.
- The reservation must be requested by the visitor himself and can be made by message (by email [email protected] or by fax +39 06 69873017), or even in person, directly from the Excavation Department (entrance on the left of the arch from square).
- The ticket cost is € 13.00 (since the number of accesses is limited, the company does not grant any discount on the ticket price).
How to participate in the Audience with the Holy Father?
To participate in the General Audience on Wednesday mornings and other papal ceremonies, it is necessary to reserve a ticket (completely free) at the Pontifical Prefecture. Entrance takes place through the Bronze Gate and the ticket office opens Monday from 9 am to 1 pm and Tuesday from 9 am to 6 pm. HOW TO PARTICIPATE IN THE PAPAL AUDIENCE?
Now let’s get the useful information for you to visit the Basilica. Remember that I’m here to answer your questions, just write to me and I’ll answer you soon.
The Basilica is open every day from 7 am to 7 pm from April to September and from 7 am to 6 pm from October to March. People who are indecently dressed are not allowed to enter. Admission is free, but it is possible to pay a ticket for priority entrance without queuing.
The visit to the Dome is possible every day from 8 am to 6 pm from April to September and from 8 am to 4.45 pm from October to March. The entrance is through the portico of the Basilica.
Vatican Caves Hours
The Vatican Caves are open every day from 7 am to 6 pm from April to September and from 7 am to 5 pm from October to March. Access is via the transept of the Basilica.
Times to visit the Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museums are open Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 6 pm (last entry at 4 pm). Closed on Sundays (with the exception of the last Sunday of the month, when admission is free from 9 am to 2 pm – last call at 12:30 pm). LEARN EVERYTHING ABOUT THE VATICAN MUSEUM
Curiosities about St. Peter’s Basilica
I could not finish this post without talking about some curiosities about St. Peter’s Basilica.
Gianlorenzo Bernini was only 25 years old when Pope Urban VIII commissioned him to build the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. He was an extraordinary sculptor, but as an architect he didn’t have much experience and, therefore, he invited his bitter rival Borromini to his work group and, it worked out very well: the altar was beautiful. His father, Pietro, a well-known sculptor in Rome, and his brother Luigi also worked on the project.
The Canopy of the Basilica and the Adornments
The canopy of the Basilica is very high and is 28 meters high, the equivalent of a 10-story building. Many wonder why the place is adorned with so many bees and suns. Simply because it is the symbol of the Barberini family, to which Pope Urban VIII belonged. In other words: it is a tribute.
The leaves that adorn the columns, except those that represent the Eucharist, we can see laurel leaves. Everything indicates that it is a tribute to the poetic talent of Pope Urban VIII, since, with him, many poets were ‘crowned’ with laurel for his incredible works.
The Basilica and St. Peter’s Square are today exactly where, at the time of the Roman Empire, the famous Circus of Nero appeared: a complex for presentations over half a kilometre in length.
How to get to Vatican?
1) How to get to the Vatican? BY AIRPLANE
Disembark at L. Da Vinci Airport, Fiumicino or GB Airport. Pastine, Ciampino.
Also read our posts about Airports in Italy:
- HOW TO GO FROM THE ROME AIRPORT TO THE CENTER OF ROME?
- HOW TO GO FROM THE MALPENSA AIRPORT TO THE CENTER OF MILANO?
- HOW TO GO FROM VENICE AIRPORT TO VENICE CENTER?
2) How to get to the Vatican? BY TRAIN
Stations: San Pietro Station / Termini Station / Tiburtina Station.
Find out here “What is the difference between trains in Italy?”. Buy your ticket online in advance and save a lot, read the Post “How to buy a train ticket in Italy?“. See travel options through the Trenitalia website.
3) How to get to the Vatican? BY SUBWAY
From Termini or Tiburtina Station take the subway. Find out here how to use the Metro in Rome.
Arriving in Rome, the nearest metro stop is OTTAVIANO, line A, located 10 minutes walk from the Vatican Museum and 12 minutes from St. Peter’s Basilica.
4) How to get to the Vatican? BY BUS
There are several connections from the main Italian cities to Rome. Almost all long distance services have as their last destination a stop in front of metro stations, among which the main ones are Tiburtina and EUR Fermi.
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Hotel I suggest near the Historic Center
If you are passionate about art and would like to stay in the center where you can move around walking, as well as having countless possibilities for places to have lunch / dinner or a snack, I advise you to stay in the historic center. Regions near the Trevi Fountain, the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, the Imperial Forum and the Villa Borghese, Piazza Spagna and Piazza Navona can be considered as “historic center”. These are the most expensive areas, but you will be close to everything, literally!
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Hotels that I suggest near the San Giovanni Region
For those who want to find cheaper alternatives in quiet areas, but at the same time close to the means of transport to the center, I suggest the region of San Giovanni or Monti (near the metro stations San Giovanni, Castro Pretorio and Circus Massimo) – which it is a more residential neighborhood; therefore, more economical and quiet! And with just 15 minutes by subway you will be in the center too!
I have two options for Hotels that I recommend, click on the links below and get to know each one. If you like the suggestion make your reservation and guarantee good prices;)
I have two options of B&B that I recommend, click on the links below and get to know each one. If you like the suggestion make your reservation and guarantee good prices;)
Hotels I suggest near Vatican City
An interesting area to stay and a little cheaper than the historic center is the Vatican area (Vatican Museums) which is very well connected with everything.
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If you prefer a hotel, I have three options that I recommend, click on the links below and get to know each one. If you like the suggestion make your reservation and guarantee good prices;)
Hotel I suggest near Termini Station
For those who prefer to stay in neighborhoods that have good access to the rest of the city and at a better price, then you should choose accommodation in the surroundings of Termini Station (from where a dense network of public means of transport starts, serving both: the local people and tourists).
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If you prefer B&B I have 2 good suggestions, click on the links below and get to know each one. If you like the suggestion make your reservation and guarantee good prices;)
Hotels that I suggest in Trastevere
For those who prefer to “taste” authentic and characteristic Rome, there is nothing better than booking a hotel in Trastevere (on the outskirts of the city’s historic river), full of typical Roman history and traditions, known for the tortuous streets of sampietrini stones and the centers medieval style housing.
The neighborhood is in the historic center and to the right of the Tevere River, in the midst of a spectacular landscape, where each visitor can observe the countless churches and squares (such as Santa Maria in Trastevere). In addition, this neighborhood offers several local restaurants and canteens for those who want to try typical Roman cuisine.
If you want to save a great option is the B&B, click on the links below and get to know each one. If you like the suggestion make your reservation and guarantee good prices;)
If you prefer a good hotel, I have two options that I really like, click on the links below and get to know each one. If you like the suggestion make your reservation and guarantee good prices;)
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Let´s visit St. Peter’s Basilica? In conclusion, we can say that St. Peter’s Basilica is a heritage of human history and there is no place in the world so full of memories, faith and art. The event will bring millions of faithful, curious, tourists and art lovers to this magical place.
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