Basilica Papale di San Pietro

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Piazza San Pietro, Vatican City State, Italy

Basilica Papale di San Pietro Vatican City State Reviews

spocklogic spocklog…
325 reviews
Awe inspiring to behold Aug 14, 2016
The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter (Basilica Papale di San Pietro) or more commonly known as St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City State remains the largest church in the world today by volume (5 million cubic meters). The history of the church can be traced back to reign of the Emperor Constantine in the 4th Century AD, when the original church was authorized by Constantine in 324 and consecrated in 329. The site on which it is built is believed to be the place where the apostle Peter was crucified and entombed during Nero’s Christian persecution in 64 AD. In this way, St. Peter’s tomb was essentially the center of the structure beneath the high altar, and this is the origin of the namesake of the church. The actual tomb of St. Peter was announced by Pope Pius XII to have been found in 1950 after a long search by archeologist begun in 1939.

Excavations turned up a variety of bones from different time periods, but one set stood out as being rather special wrapped in purple and gold thread cloth. They were mostly bone fragments including skull, jaw, vertebrae, pelvis, legs, arms and hands. No feet bones were found and it is believed that since Peter was hung upside down with feet nailed to a cross, as was customary for Romans to do with criminals, the body of Peter may have been cut from the cross at the ankles. It is speculated that Christian faithfuls may have bribed the executioners for the body, a not uncommon practice, as the bodies of criminals were not buried, but simply dumped after the execution. After extensive examination of the bones during the 1960’s, Pope Paul VI declared on June 26, 1968 that the remains of St. Peter had been “identified in a way which we can hold to be convincing.”

St. Peter’s Basilica has a rather long history. One of the famous events in history, the subject of many paintings and sculptures, occurred here with the coronation of Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor in 800 AD. By the time the Popes abandoned Rome during the Papal Schism from 1309-1377, the basilica was already 1000 years old and showing its age in deterioration. During the 16th and 17th centuries the Basilica of St. Peter would go through many restorations, renovations and new constructions to bring it into a form as seen today. Many of the great artists, sculptors and architects of the age participated in this endeavor, including Raphael, Michelangelo, Carlo Moderno and Bernini. Many of the plans and changes were rigorously debated over the near century of construction, with some lapses in those years, but the end result is something spectacular to behold. The square, exterior and interior of St. Peter’s Basilica combine in a harmony of perspective that is quite awe inspiring to behold.

So, there are churches, cathedrals and basilicas - what's the difference really? Church is the general name for places of worship in Christianity. Cathedrals and Basilicas are types of churches, but high level ones. Cathedrals are a seat of a diocese (consisting of many parishes) where a bishop sits and conducts mass. Basilicas come in two kinds (major and minor). The major basilicas are all in Rome and only the Pope and his delegates can conduct mass here. The minor basilicas are not the seat of any bishop and usually designated as basilica for historic reasons, honorary for location, architecture or some ecclesiastical reasons. Remember, the Pope is still a bishop and just the top bishop (The bishop of Rome). So, the major basilicas in Rome are at top of the hierarchy, with St. Peter’s the top of the top. Next come cathedrals, seats of bishops below the Pope. After this there are the minor basilicas, which rank above all remaining churches. Some minor basilicas are also cathedrals and have precedence over just minor basilicas obviously. St. Peter’s is a major Basilica of Rome, but not it’s cathedral and that honor belongs to the the Papal Archbasilica of St. John in Lateran (Arcibasilica Papale Romana Maggiore di San Giovanni in Laterano). This is the seat of the Pope, his home church as Bishop of Rome.

St. Peter's Basilica by the numbers - Length: 186 m long (218 m including the portico); Height :46 m tall in the central aisle, 138 m tall in the main dome (44 m in diameter); Facade: 114 m wide and 47 m tall; Interior volume: 5 million cubic meters; Exterior footprint: 21,000 square meters.

Some links of interest:

Most of the photos in this review are from 2016, but some from visits here in 1995 and 1998 are also shown in the photo collection. The old photos are not digital quality, but have an appeal on their own from a vintage travel aspect I suppose. The place hasn't really changed much in 20 or so years ago.
St. Peter's Basilica - 2016
St. Peter's Basilica - 1995
St. Peter's - 1995
St. Peter's - 1995
9 / 9 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
Paulovic says:
Brian, congratulations on your featured review! Well done and high quality as usual!
Posted on: Sep 25, 2017
Brian, congrats on your featured review. Well done.
Posted on: Sep 25, 2017
starship1 says:
Thanks for the history of St. Peter's. Congrats on having today's featured review!
Posted on: Sep 25, 2017
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