Saint Peter's

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Rome, Italy

Saint Peter's Rome Reviews

missandrea81 missandr…
144 reviews
An awe inspiring masterpiece of architecture and collaboration with high art Jan 08, 2013
Simply put, Saint Peter's cathedral is massive and beautiful. I don't think you have to be religious to enjoy visiting this masterpiece of architecture, and the many magnificent sculptures housed within.

Some information before heading there: Always check their website for schedules. Best time to visit is during the winter months, when there are simply less tourists visiting Rome. Entry is FREE. Large bags and strollers are not allowed inside the church. Bags will be searched before entering. There was no time limit when I visited, but I assume this changes during peek tourist season.

Photography is allowed! I suggest you make yourself familiar with the floor plan before going. I missed Michelangelo's Pieta, because I was staring at the ceiling when I first walked in and walked right past it. I haven't forgiven myself for that.

However, every corner of this church has something beautiful to offer so it is really hard to take it all in only visiting once. I was completely overwhelmed by all the detail that was put into every arch, every column, and every domed area. From the marble floors to the gold-leafed ceiling, this church is anything short of amazing. Granted materials for this church were largely plundered from elsewhere around the city, but I guess it's better than having things fall into ruin or being carried off to museums around the globe.

The baldacchino right beneath the large dome is incredible.

It measures ca. 100 feet or 30.48 m high, and completely shelters the papal altar over which it was built. The canopy is mostly cast out of bronze, which was scavenged, in part, from the Pantheon by melting down its dismantled portico. Some brass was added and wood can be found in places as well. Four tall and twisting columns sore up to hold the canopy above the high altar. The laurel leaves that wind along the columns are symbol for Pope Urban’s family, the Barberini of Rome, who had a huge influence in Rome, much like the Medici had in Florence. The canopy marks the spot under which St Peter's tomb lies.

Saint Peter's square is really part of the church, so writing a separate review isn't necessary, IMO. Bernini's sculptures watch while you make your way through the line (no line in the winter time). You can visit the dome separately, but this is not free. I hear it has a fantastic view over Rome though.


After my visit to Saint Peter I wrote a paper for a class I was in, which included a brief history about the architecture. If you'd like to know about these things, read on. If not, I highly recommend visiting Saint Peter though. You won't regret it! The complete appearance of this enormous church is truly awe inspiring from marble floor to domed and frescoed ceiling, and it is a really humbling experience to visit it in person.

Saint Peter's basilica history and background:

The new Saint Peter’s basilica started as an idea of Pope Julius II (r. 1503-1513). The architect Donato D’Angelo Bramante (1444-1514) was the first individual charged with drawing up a new design for the old church that had been placed at the location of Saint Peter’s tomb by Emperor Constantine in the 4th century. His design for a central plan layout from 1505 however was so ambitious in style that his successor Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) had a hard time sticking to the original plan. The redesigned layout in shape of a Greek cross and the beginning of construction took place under a different pope, Paul III, and didn’t start until 1546 when Michelangelo took over the large scale project. Michelangelo had planned to top the basilica’s cross section with a hemispherical dome that would have “rested firmly” over the floor plan, but he passed away before it could be completed. The next architect, Giacomo della Porta, went with an easier and cheaper design, so the basilica could finally come close to being finished after nearly a century of work.

The project of Saint Peter’s basilica was started in the High Renaissance and stretched itself through the late Renaissance all the way into the Baroque era. On the inside additional artwork was added over the years by renowned artists, and on the outside the church underwent further additions to its façade and large piazza square. Pope Urban VIII (r. 1623-1644) was who commissioned the baldacchino from Gianlorenzo Bernini, and later hired him to also design Saint Peter’s square with its colonnade arms during the Counter-Reformation in baroque style.

I hope you do enjoy your visit to St Peter's basilica as much as I did.
St Peter's Basilica - Viewed from …
St Peter's Basilica - One of Berni…
St Peter's Basilica - ceiling of t…
St Peter's Basilica - Domed ceilin…
4 / 4 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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missandrea81 says:
Thanks, Brian.
Posted on: Oct 27, 2013
spocklogic says:
Superb photos - Good coverage in narrative too!
Posted on: Oct 23, 2013
missandrea81 says:
Thank you, Jim. :) I actually had to do the research for this one. There was no way around that assignment.
Posted on: Oct 21, 2013
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pastorulc pastorulc
3 reviews
Amazing Church Mar 14, 2011
This was the highlight of my trip to Rome, so much history and beauty. The staff is very nice and lots of chapel for prayer anad spiritual reflection.
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lrbuster lrbuster
6 reviews
Climbing the dome Dec 24, 2010
Well when i saw the feature destination for the month was Rome,i had to write about my experience climbing St Peters dome.First we walked around St Peters square soaking up the sunshine and the statues of all the saints.After waitng about 30 min in line we entered St Peters church,it met my every expectation absoultey beautiful.You feel so small inside the large arches.Take your time to walk around and enjoy the art and beauty.Then we proceeded to the the elevators that take you half way up the dome.elevator is 7euros.(you can skip the elevator and do the whole climb,some 600 stairs!)Where you can get a close up look at Michalangelos masterpiece dome.From there the fun starts.It is 323 stairs from this halfway point after elevator ride.You climb the remaining stairs through winding aged brick tunnels all the way up.Your spinning upwards the whole way with just enough space to fit your shoulders.The windows to take a break and breath fresh air are small.Its quite a sweaty hike up and not reccommended for those with a weak heart or health issues.Or for anyone who is clausterphobic.Im glad i didnt know this before i went up or i might have backed out.I do tend to get clauterphobic from time to time.But the AMAZING view from atop was worth it.The BEST view in in all of Rome.To see Rome and the vatician from this point was one of my favorite things in Rome.Maybe i wouldnt have thought it was so tiring if i hadnt already hiked 5 miles this day.I reccommend starting your day with the Dome climb instead of ending your day with it.But dont miss it..youll regret it!And wear comfy shoes!
Midway up dome,close up of dome
looking up at dome,miday up.
The windows on climb up
winding stairs up dome climb
1 / 1 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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stevemco stevemco
33 reviews
Wow! Nov 03, 2009
I have to say this is incredible. The architecture and sculptures... WOW! While visiting, ponder ‘religion as a profitable business’. Plan enough time to climb the cupola.

Important: The comments express are mine and in no way intended to promote any product, service or tour. Also, I’m not here to write full ‘play by play’ reports on my experience simply to provide short first hand personal impression. As with all comments, reviews, recommendations on the internet, in books or magazines, they are SUBJECTIVE! We all have individual likes and dislikes and it is your responsibility to perform your own ‘due diligence’ and make educated choices. The bottom line… we live on an amazing planet and I’ve been fortunate enough to have explored a large piece of it. My only suggestion would be to get out there and enjoy every bit of it whenever you’re able.
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keithmaguire keithmag…
14 reviews
Saint Peter's Basilica Jun 16, 2008
Saint Peter's Basilica is one of the most impressive religious buildings in the world. The cathedral is the most important building in all of Christendom and is also probably the most imposing, iconic and lavish. The church is flanked by two colonnades which also encompass much of Saint Peter's Square. The square is a beautiful, open space with an obelisk and two large fountains in its centre. Piazza San Pietro almost always has hundreds of people admiring the Basilica but the space is so large that the piazza is rarely crowded. Though on Wednesday mornings the Pope gives mass in the square which draws thousands of people.

Entrance through the church is through the security check at the colonnades and queues can at times be long but they often move swiftly enough. Visitors to Saint Peter's must be properly attired and it's important to remember that shoulders and legs should be covered. If you do forget there are often street vendors nearby selling unflattering, one size fits all, disposable clothes.

Inside the church, though often crowded, is relatively quiet. As if the gargantuan size of the interior has all within dumbstruck in awe. People are very respectful and keep conversation to a whisper, which is nice because it adds to the atmosphere inside. The Pieta is on display and it can't be missed as it sits so close to the entrance and always has a crowd of people around it. The church is stunning, cavernous, with soaring arches and is often beautifully lit by the Roman sun. The only thing that challenges the heights of the ceiling is the spectacularly ornate ebony altar lying beneath the dome.

No trip to Saint Peter's is complete without an ascent to the top of the cupola. There is a small fee but it is well worth it. The entry point is in the front portico to the left. The climb to the roof is up a long, wide spiral staircase and from the roof you can access the trickier climb to the dome. The spiral staircase here is much, much narrower and most people take this part slow. The views afforded from the top are beautiful, especially the view of the piazza below. Unfortunately the top is often a little crowded but it's still easy enough to move around.

Another point of interest for many travellers is the crypt beneath Saint Peter's and the tomb of the late Pope John Paul II. The crypt itself is one of the more unremarkable parts of Saint Peter's but many visitors wish to see the resting place of the former pope. Don't expect a pictorial tribute and an elegant tomb. It is an appropriately austere slab with a simple inscription. The tomb is a place for people to show their respect, not a photo op.

Saint Peter's is a stunning icon of Rome and one of the main tourist destinations in all of Italy.
Saint Peter's Basilica
The View From Saint Peter's Cupola
Inside Saint Peter's
Saint Peter's By Night
1 / 1 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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jasonvy7 jasonvy7
9 reviews
Wooww Feb 25, 2008
C'est LA basilique, mère de toutes les églises catholiques!
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Eric Eric
408 reviews
Dec 15, 2005
Even if you aren't religious, entering this building will inspire awe and reverence. It is simply colossal, and once you step inside it's impossible to not feel overwhelmed by it all. Along the sides of the ceiling are golden letters that appear tiny from distance, but are in reality 6ft high. Everything inside is built to such a monumental scale that it is easy to lose your sense of perspective. Without a doubt it is the most mind-blowing structure I have been in. I can't imagine how it must have felt to have entered it 300 years ago, when most buildings were probably shacks in comparison, and there were no such things as skyscrapers.Once you enter, directly to your right will be Michaelangelo's Pieta. Unfortunately, some lunatic attacked it with a hammer a few years ago, so it's behind a protective glass covering, and you can't really walk around and get a good look at it. Some interesting things to note are how tiny the Christ figure is and how young the Virgin Mary looks. At the opposite end of the church you'll find Bernini's massive bronze Baldacchino. The project was sponsored by the Barberini family and a fun thing to do is to see how many of the Barberini bee's you can spot among the sculpture. If you look closely, you can also see a lot of different flora and fauna carved into the work.Another fun thing to do is to go to the top of the basilica to get a good view of Rome. This costs a bit of extra money, but is well worth it. You can either take the stairs (cheaper, and not too strenuous) or the elevator (more expensive). If you opt to take the stairs you'll also get a first-hand view on how large the gold lettering along the ceiling really is.Oh yea, the dress code is somewhat strict here, so no sleeveless shirts for girls or shorts for guys.
Michelangelo's Pieta.
My blurry picture doesn't do this …
A stimulating conversation with a …
1 / 1 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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pacovera says:
Eric : Do you know that there is a catacomb under the crypt of St Peter, where are the reliquios of the saint. Is a visit with reservation of several months, that I visited in 2004.
Posted on: Apr 30, 2006
stagsa says:
Couldn't agree more...our visit to the Vatican, St. Peter's and the Sistime Chapel was one of the most humbling experiences of my life!!
Posted on: Dec 15, 2005

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