St. Peter's Basilica

Vatican City

Known as the Queen of all the Basilicas, boasting the tallest dome in the world and serving as a prime example of Renaissance architecture, St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City is one of the most magnificent churches ever built.

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St. Peter's Basilica stands in the heart of Rome, wholly within the territory of the Vatican and therefore is under the sovereign jurisdiction of the Vatican City State, not Italy. It is the center of Catholicism and one of the four great papal basilicas in Rome. 

Saint Peter's tomb is housed in the Vatican Grottoes under the Basilica floor, along with the burial places of previous popes, including John Paul II.

"From the dome of St. Peter's, one can see every notable object in Rome... He can see a panorama that is varied, extensive, beautiful to the eye, and more illustrious in history than any other in Europe." – Mark Twain, an American writer.

The Basilica is a major pilgrimage destination for millions of people each year. Designed principally by Bernini, Bramante, Michelangelo, Moderno, and Raphael, it is also an architectural, cultural, historical icon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you are planning a trip to Rome, you cannot miss the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica.

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Architecture & History

The Basilica, built between the 16th–17th centuries on the grounds of the burial spot of Saint Peter, dominates St. Peter's Square. It took even 120 years to complete.

Almost all of Italy's famous architects of that time took turns taking part in the design and construction of St. Peter's Basilica.

In 1506, Bramante created the first design for the Basilica. According to his plan, the building had a Greek cross shape with a dome inspired by the cupola of the circular Roman Pantheon.

In 1514, Raphael took over as the chief architect and modified the original plan to a Latin cross with three aisles separated by pillars.

In 1520, Michelangelo succeeded Raphael. He liked the idea of a centric cross-domed structure. His project provided multi-column entrance portico creation on the east side (in the most ancient basilicas of Rome, as in ancient temples, the entrance was on the east, not on the west side). Michelangelo enlarged the space under the rounded vault, making it more solid. He planned the construction of a large dome over the middle cross.

In 1564, Michelangelo's pupil, Giacomo della Porta continued to build the church. He gave the dome not a hemispherical, as Michelangelo intended, but a parabolic shape.

In 1607–1617, Maderna extended the eastern branch of the cross. He added a three-aisled basilical part to the centric building, thus returning to the shape of a Latin cross, and built the façade. As a result, the dome has lost its dominant meaning and is perceived only from a distance because the façade hides it.

The church, built of travertine stone, spans 220 meters / 750 feet in length, 150 meters / 500 feet in width, and more than 5 acres in size.

Visiting St. Peter's Basilica

Marble, reliefs, architectural sculpture, and gilding abound throughout the interior. As you enter the Basilica, look for Michelangelo's Pietà, a 15th-century marble work in the first chapel of the right aisle. It is the most famous masterpiece of the church of the popes.

The altars are among the Basilica's most spectacular structures. The Baldachin, a bronze canopy sculpted by the famed Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini, stands beneath the central dome, over Saint Peter's grave. 

The Vatican Grottoes are an intrinsic element of the church: you will find the graves of several Pontiffs, including Pius XII, Paul VI, John Paul I, and John Paul II, here. A small monument, the tomb of Peter, along with mausoleums of the 2nd-4th centuries, is in the Pre-Constantinian Necropolis, reachable via the Grottoes.

The sacristy's entrance is in the left aisle, beneath the Pius VIII statue. The room with vestments, sacred vessels, and other treasures is octagonal and has eight columns from Hadrian's villa in Tivoli, adorning its sides. The Treasury Museum, housed in 10 chambers, may be visited from the sacristy.

Whether you use the elevator or walk the 551 steps to the top of Michelangelo's dome, the view from the roof of St. Peter's Basilica is breathtaking.

St. Peter's Basilica in Pictures

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Interior of the Basilica of St. Peter


St. Peter's Basilica


St. Peter's Basilica


St. Peter's Basilica


St. Peter's Basilica


St. Peter's Basilica


Roof of the Basilica of St. Peter


St. Peter's Square


How to Get to St. Peter's Basilica

The Basilica stands within Vatican City, which is northwest of the historic center of Rome. The stroll from it to the Vatican will only take you 15–20 minutes.

Address: Piazza San Pietro, 00120 Città del Vaticano

Public Transportation

Bus (lines 34, 46, 64, 98, 190F, 881, 916, 916F, 982): Cavalleggeri/S. Pietro
Metro (line A): Ottaviano–San Pietro–Musei Vaticani
Tram (line 19): Risorgimento/S. Pietro
Train (REG, RV): Roma S.Pietro

Renting a Car 

If you do not have your vehicle in the Vatican and Italy, renting a car will save time and allow you to travel comfortably from one fascinating place to another. The best site to book a car in Rome near Vatican City is DiscoverCars.com, a leader in online car rental reservations. They compare car rental deals from many companies so that you can choose which is best for your trip.

St. Peter's Basilica Opening Hours & Ticket Prices

April–September

Basilica: 7:00 am to 7:00 pm  (free entrance)
Cupola: 7:30 am to 5:00 pm (€10 for the elevators & the stairs; €8 for the stairs)
Grottoes: 7:00 am to 6:00 pm  (free entrance)
Treasury Museum: 9:00 am to 6:15 pm  (free entrance)

October–March

Basilica: 7:00 am to 6:00 pm (free entrance)
Cupola: 7:30 am to 5:00 pm (€10 for the elevators & the stairs; €8 for the stairs)
Grottoes: 7:00 am to 5:00 pm (free entrance)
Treasury Museum: 9:00 am to 5:15 pm  (free entrance)

The Pope holds an audience at St Peter's Basilica on Wednesdays, except in late July and August. Tickets to watch the Pope deliver a Papal Audience or attend a Papal Mass are available for no cost.

The Best Tours to Experience St. Peter's Basilica

Accommodation in Rome

On Booking.com, you can book over 1,000 homes, apartments, and other unique places to stay in Rome near the Vatican.

Booking.com

According to this online travel agency for lodging reservations, NH Collection Roma Giustiniano, Atlante Star Hotel, and Atlante Garden Hotel are some of the best hotels in Rome near St. Peter's Basilica.


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5 comments

  1. St Peter’s Basilica was just one of the stops on our mad rush tour of Rome. We sure did not give it the time it deserved. The inside art and architecture is stunning. And I am really sorry we did not get to the top for those amazing panoramic views. Rome is a gateway city for us so we know we will be back. Need to plan a return visit to the St Peter’s Basilica. Linda (LD Holland)

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  2. St Peter's is an absolutely amazing building. I was impressed by the size and by the overwhelming collection of art. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to enjoy walking around the cupola since I'm afraid of heights and it is...high. However, I loved the mosaics up there. St Peter's is definitely not to be missed when visiting Rome.

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  3. Thanks for this comprehensive view. Had been there twice, the last time I even heard Mass inside. But I have not been up the dome to take in the view!

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  4. St. Peters looks absolutely beautiful. All of the architecture and detail within the building is truly amazing. I have never been, but it has definitely been on my travel to do list for a while now! Hoping to make the trip soon.

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  5. St Peter’s Basilica is such a grand building in Rome. I can spend a full day here and still come back the next day to see more. It's so beautiful and full of history. Your pictures are stunning and perfectly showcases its beauty.

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