Basilica of Saint Peter

The Basilica of San Pedro is the most important temple of Catholicism and a place of pilgrimage for millions of people. In it, the Pope celebrates the most important liturgies of the year.

The temple was erected on the tomb of Saint Peter, located in a necropolis from the 1st century, and who was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus of Nazareth and the first bishop of Antioch, the first bishop of Rome and, therefore, the first of the pontiffs.

Historical and scientific evidence supports that the tomb of Saint Peter is under the main altar of the basilica. Next to him, and as a tradition, most of the popes have been buried in the temple since the paleochristian era.

Since the 4th century, churches have existed in the location where the Vatican stands today. The latter stood for more than 1,000 years, until the Renaissance popes tore it down so they could build a new basilica over the tomb of Saint Peter.

The construction of the building, on the old Constantinian basilica, began on April 18, 1506, by order of Pope Julius II, and ended on November 18, 1626. Some of the most renowned architects in history worked on it, such as Donato Bramante, Michelangelo or Bernini.

The basilica is the largest Christian temple in the world, 193 m long, 44.5 m high, and covers an area of 2.3 hectares. The height conferred by its dome makes its figure dominate the skyline of Rome. It is considered the most sacred place in Catholicism.

In addition, it is one of the four major basilicas (the others are Saint John Lateran, Saint Mary Major and Saint Paul Outside the Walls) and one of the churches that must be visited on the pilgrimage to the seven churches of Rome to achieve plenary indulgence. in Holy Year.. La última estuvo en pie durante más de 1.000 años, hasta que los papas del Renacimiento la derribaron para poder levantar una nueva basílica sobre la tumba de San Pedro.

Interior of the basilica

The Basilica of Saint Peter has the capacity to accommodate 20,000 people.

Among the works of art that can be found inside are Bernini’s Baldachin, Michelangelo’s Pietà and the statue of Saint Peter on his throne. The latter has the right foot worn by the kisses or friction of the faithful.

The Baldachin of Saint Peter is located in the transept of the basilica, under the dome, the work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, built between 1624 and 1633.

Beneath it is the papal altar, a block of white marble on which stands a bronze crucifix and a set of seven candlesticks, in which only the pope can celebrate the Eucharist on solemn occasions.

It was placed vertically above the tomb of Saint Peter and consecrated on June 5, 1594 by Pope Clement VIII.

It is supported by four columns in imitation of those of the Temple of Solomon and the tabernacle of the old basilica, whose columns were recovered and placed as decoration on the pillars of Michelangelo’s dome.

Made of bronze extracted from the Pantheon and with a height of 30 m., this altar is known as the Altar of Confession, as it is located on the place known as Confessio, the tomb of the Apostle. The Confessio is the place destined for the burial of saints, martyrs or teachers of the faith.



The main points of interest inside the basilica are:

  • Equestrian statue of Constantine by Bernini
  • Bronze doors of access to the temple
  • Michelangelo’s Pietà
  • Porphyry disc where Charlemagne knelt (year 800) when he was crowned emperor
  • Bronze statue of Saint Peter, known as The Fisherman
  • Bronze baldachin (Bernini)
  • Tomb of Saint Peter 
  • Relic Pillars
  • Monument of Clement XIII
  • The Chair of Saint Peter
  • Monument of Paul III
  • Monument of Urban VIII
  • Monumento of Alexander VII
  • Treasure Museum
  • Monument of Innocent VIII

CuriosiTIes OF THE BASIlica

  • Despite popular belief, Saint Peter is not the cathedral of Rome, since the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran is the true cathedral of the city.
  • The Basilica of Saint Peter is neither the official seat of the Pope, nor is it the first basilica in Rome, since this honor is held by Saint John Lateran; neither is it the parish of Vatican City, since currently it is the Pauline Chapel that has the honor. However, it is the main pontifical church, hosting most papal ceremonies due to its size, its proximity to the papal residence, and its location within Vatican City.
  • In the central nave of the temple, you can see the different lengths of the main churches in the world, marked on the pavement. That of San Pedro, with 186 m., is the largest. And the cathedral of Seville the fifth largest.
  • The Holy Door remains closed and covered with cement on the inside. Only the Pope can open and close it in the Holy Years, remaining open for the whole year for the access of the faithful who can gain indulgences.
  • The basilica has six bells. When they all sound in unison it is called a plenum, and it only happens on the most important festivals of the liturgical year: Easter, Christmas, Epiphany, Pentecost; and on the Solemnity of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, June 29. Since the conclave of 2005, the bells of the basilica have played an important role. Its sound is different depending on the result of the voting. This measure was applied to eliminate any doubt about the color of the smoke that precedes the Habemus Papam announcement.


Piazza San Pietro, Vatican.


From October to March: from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
From April to September: from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The dome opens an hour later and closes an hour earlier.


Entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica is free.
Ascent to the dome: ascent on foot, €6. Ascent by elevator and on foot, €8.


Underground: Ottaviano, line A.


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