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If you are interested in information about this basilica  --history, dimensions, facts, whatever -- this web site is the most authoritative one I know. .  

St. Peter's Basilica is the primary destination of many people going to Rome.  We were again fortunate enough to have guest quarters across the street.  A visit to the basilica can never have enough time allocated though.  It's just the superlative of all places to visit in Rome.

Below are a few pictures of things I particularly liked.




The view of St. Peter's Basilica looking down Via della Conciliazione.  The construction of this street started in 1936 under Mussolini.  The name refers to the reconciliation between the (then) Kingdom of Italy and the City State of the Vatican brought about by the signing of the Lateran Treaty.  The treaty ended over a century of stalemate brought on by Italy seizing lands that had for centuries belonged to the Church.  




Michelangelo's La Pieta, one of the finest pieces of sculpture in existence.  Can be viewed only through explosion-proof, bullet-proof glass after two attempts to destroy it by deranged people.  La Pieta was done when Michelangelo was 23 years old.  Situated in the first chapel on the right when you enter the basilica.





The final resting place of Blessed Pope John Paul II.




The Stuart Memorial is located in the nave directly above the tombs of the last of the Stuart royal family of England in the crypt below.  James II was the last Catholic King of England.  His son, James III lived out his life in exile in Rome along with his sons Bonnie Prince Charlie and Henry.  James III died in 1766, Charlie in 1788, and Henry in 1807.  George III of England generously financed this monument to his rivals who gave up the throne rather than renounce the Church.




Queen Christina of Sweden gave up her throne rather than renounce the Church in 1655.  She remained in Rome the remainder of her life.  This memorial was erected to her memory in the nave after her remains were interred in the crypt.




When the original basilica built by Constantine in the 4th century was demolished to build the current basilica in the 16th century, one of the few pieces kept from the old was this circular red porphyry stone.  On this stone in 800 AD, Charlemagne knelt to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III.  Subsequently 21 more followed this example at their coronation as Holy Roman Emperor.




This bronze statue of St. Peter holding the keys and dispensing a blessing has an unknown origin.  Some experts date it to the 13th century.  Others date it as early as the 4th century.  The wall pattern background is a mosaic.




The Altar of the Crucifixion of St. Peter in the left transept is located according to tradition on the precise spot where Peter was crucified upside down in Nero's Circus.




The four massive pillars at the intersection of the nave and the transept.




The confessio is located before the main altar precisely under the center of the dome.  A silver coffer there contains the pallia, wool ceremonial stoles.  Each year the Pope places a pallium on the shoulder of each newly appointed archbishop as part of the ceremony.




The Throne of Peter.  The corkscrew column is one leg of the baldaccino (altar canopy).  The throne is built around the remaining pieces of woods which constituted the chair on which St. Peter sat during Mass.




Behind the throne is the stained glass Gloria with the Holy Spirit represented by a dove in the middle.




The badacchino (altar canopy) was made by Bernini and took nine years (1624-33) to make.  It contains 6200 kilograms of bronze, reportedly removed from the roof of the Pantheon.




This shows a typical arrangement at each side chapel (there are six on each side) in the basilica.  The central side chapel altar below the window is dedicated to St. Sebastian.  The left wall of the chapel extension wall (with the dark statue) is a monument to Pope Pius XII.  Next to the left back in the main portion of the right aisle is the memorial to Pope Innocent XII.  There is a light dome above each side chapel.




There are 39 memorials in the basilica to Founder Saints (those who founded religious orders).  One of the most poignant expressions is on that of St. John of God.  A 16th century Portuguese convert to Christianity, he founded the Brothers Hospitaller of St. John of God, which still performs charity medical services throughout much of the world.





At the intersection of the nave and the transept are four large pillars dedicated to four saints.  Each pillar has inside a storage compartment containing a relic of the saint to which that pillar is dedicated.  The one above is St. Veronica,  the woman who came out to Christ as he was struggling up the street with his cross and wiped the sweat and blood from his face with her veil.  Inside the pillar is Veronica's Veil.  These relics are brought out during Easter week for public display.




This is the pillar of St. Longinus, the Roman soldier who cast the spear into Jesus' side to end his suffering.   Tradition says that he later converted to Christianity himself and was martyred by his colleagues for refusing to offer sacrifice to the pagan Roman gods.  His relic inside the pillar:  the spear which he cast at the Crucifixion.




St. Andrew, the brother to St. Peter.  The relic: some bone fragments from his remains.  At one time, most of his remains were here but they were handed over to the Greek Orthodox Church of which Andrew is the patron saint by Blessed Pope John Paul II.




St. Helena, the mother of the emperor Constantine.  See the page on Santa Croce di Gerusalemme regarding her contributions.  Her relic:  a small piece of the True Cross.





One part of Roman basilicas I find fascinating is the doors.  The ones currently on St. Peter's are fairly new compared to the remainder of the building.  The door in use when we were there was the Door of Death, half of which is shown above.  This door was made during the reign of Pius XII in the mid 20th century.  Previously the door was used only to bring in and take out corpses for funeral mass.  






This is the Holy Door or Jubilee Door.  It's bricked up on the inside between Holy Years.  When the Jubilee Year arrives, it is entered by the Pope and the brick wall is removed on his entrance with great ceremony.  This one is also from the papacy of Pius XII.  The sixteen panels are scenes depicting man's sins and his redemption through God's mercy.







The middle door is the Filarete Door from 1445.  It contains scenes inside and out of events in the history of the Church.  In addition to the three doors I've shown, there are two others on the front of the basilica.






We went up to the roof level in the elevator.  You can pay 6 Euro and climb the steps to the roof or for 7 Euro you can ride the elevator.  That's a no-brainer to me.  This is inside at the roof level, the base of the cupola.




This is a shot up into the cupola from it's base.  Once you are here, you can go up to the very top of the cupola where the windows are in the ring.  The one drawback to that is that you have to go up 320 stairs through a very narrow winding staircase.  People that looked like me were discouraged from attempting it.  I was easily persuaded to not do so.  Twenty years ago I would probably have done it.  Now I can just stand around and complain that the people who can do it won't appreciate it anyhow.




These people could make it up there.  I understand they have a very good view from up there.




The rest of us sluggards went out on the roof.  The view's not all that bad from here.




This is the view to the south east from the roof.  The tan building behind the scaffolding on the colonnade is the guest house where we stayed.





Besides, they have things on the roof that they don't have on the top of the cupola, such as a gift shop, coffee bar, and a restaurant.  The prices match the altitude.




The underground hallway going to the crypts.  Photography is forbidden in the crypts area itself.  Each of the below-ground memorials is similar to those above ground in the nave though.  No where have I been able to find an accurate count of the number of popes and others buried here.  Parts of the grotto have been used for Christian burial back to the first century AD though.