St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, one the biggest churches in the world, dominates the namesake square with its imposing blue-silver dome. Embracing the square is Bernini’s Colonnade which forms the solemn entrance to the Vatican and the heart of Christianity.
St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest of the four papal basilicas in Rome. The others are St. John Lateran, St. Paul Outside the Walls and St. Mary Major.
The construction of the present basilica began under the pontificate of Julius II in 1506, in the midst of the Renaissance, and the project for the colossal building was entrusted to several artists, in order: Donato Bramante, Raffaello, Antonio da Sangallo, and finally Michelangelo Buonarroti. In 1626, when the imposing façade by Carlo Maderno was finished, the church was consecrated by Pope Urban VIII.
Fun fact: in the same place of today’s basilica, there was another one dating back to the 4th century, and there – after a long campaign of excavations – were found the remains of St. Peter’s body.
Some of the countless masterpieces worth seeing, inside and outside the basilica, are:
- the colossal St. Peter’s Baldachin in bronze made by Gian Lorenzo Bernini;
- the famous Pietà, a marble sculpture of Michelangelo’s (first chapel on the right);
- the Holy Door, the last on the right;
- the 18th-century Sacristy;
- various tombs and funerary monuments by Bernini, Canova, Pollaiolo and Thorvaldsen;
- the Dome designed by Michelangelo;
- the Vatican Grottoes where many popes are buried;
- the Sistine Chapel, where you can admire the decoration of the vault and the back wall with the famous Last Judgement painted by Michelangelo;
- the Vatican Museums with Raphael’s Rooms.
In the Vatican you’ll literally be surrounded by art and history wherever you look!