St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the main attractions of the Vatican, is where the dome stands out in the Roman skyline. The Church of San Pietro in the Vatican, the most important and largest church of Christianity, is large enough to accommodate 60,000 people.
In earlier times, there were other buildings on the site of the church. In ancient Roman times, during the reign of Nero, this area was used as an arena where games and sports competitions were held.
There was also an old necropolis in this area. St. Peter, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ, was buried here after his crucifixion. The first Christians built a small monument here in his memory. In the 4th century, Emperor Constantine, the first Christian emperor, built a larger church here, also in memory of St. Peter.
Pope Julius II, who took office in the 1500s, gathered the successful artists of the period and started the construction of the present basilica. The first drawing of the building was made by Bramante, one of the High Renaissance artists. Although the construction of the church, also known as the Basilica of San Pietro, which has wonderful architectural features, started in 1506, it was completed until 1626 with the help of many architects, including famous names such as Michelangelo, Raphael, Donato Bramante, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Carlo Fontana.
The Church of St. Peter, which has become the symbol of the Vatican, is one of the largest buildings in history. It is also possible to climb the dome of the church, which has become the largest church in Christianity. You have 2 choices to climb the dome. Either you can climb the 551 steps, or you can take the elevator for 231 steps and the remaining 320 steps as we did. Don’t even think about going without an elevator. In any case, you have to climb the stairs at the end one way or another. These narrow stairs can be tiring. But I recommend you to see the view from the top because it has a 360-degree view of Rome and the Vatican. But do not forget this. There can be long queues both to go up to the dome and to enter the church, you should take this into consideration when planning your trip.
After watching the view and taking photos among the crowded groups of people in the dome, this time we go down all the stairs and enter the church. There is no entrance fee to St. Peter’s Basilica, since the basilica is a place of worship, the entrance is free. However, there are some things you should pay attention to when entering the basilica. Short shorts, skirts and low-cut clothes with bare shoulders are not allowed inside. For this reason, make sure you have a scarf with you. Otherwise, you may need to buy a scarf from the nearby gift shops by paying a few euros to get in.
The church also protects an important work of Michelangelo in a bulletproof glass cage. The reason for this protection is that it was subjected to an attack in 1972. The Pieta sculpture, which Michelangelo made at the age of 24 and is the only sculpture he signed, depicts Jesus lying in the arms of his mother Mary after the crucifixion. Mary’s nose and elbow were broken in the face of the hammer blows she received. After about 10 months of work, all the broken pieces were joined together with an invisible adhesive.
Another prominent structure in the church is Bernini’s Baldacchino. It is a high portico that marks the point where the four sides of the church intersect. The 20-meter-high work, located directly below Michelangelo’s dome, is located just above the place where St. Peter is buried. Bernini preferred spiral columns instead of classical period columns while building this structure. When you look from the center of this bronze work, you can see the throne of St. Peter, also made by Bernini.
With a diameter of 42 meters and a dome 138 meters high from the ground, the size of the church, which is one of the world’s few monuments, is unforgettable. In 1 – 1.5 hours we were able to visit the whole church and the dome, including waiting in line.
One of the most important extensions of the church, the large area in front of it, is St. Peter’s Square. Designed and built by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, it is one of the largest squares in the world. This is where the Pope addresses his people. The buildings on both sides of the square, which look like two arms embracing the people, consist of four rows of columns. These columns are made of travertine stone, 284 in total, and above these columns are 140 statues of saints made by Bernini’s students.
In the middle of the square is a 25.5 meter tall Egyptian obelisk erected by Pope Sixtus V. This obelisk was built by an Egyptian pharaoh and brought from Egypt and placed here in 1568.
When planning a trip to Vatican City, make sure to add Vatican Basilica of St. Pietro to your list of places to visit. This is one of the few major attractions in the Vatican. Before forgetting, the Roma Pass you bought to visit Rome at a discount is not valid here.