St. Peter’s Basilica – The world’s largest church in the Vatican City

Designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, St. Peter’s is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture.

Catholic tradition holds that the basilica is the burial site of Saint Peter, chief among Jesus’s apostles and also the first Bishop of Rome. Saint Peter’s tomb is supposedly directly below the high altar of the basilica. For this reason, many popes have been interred at St. Peter’s since the Early Christian period. A church has stood on this site since the time of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great. Old St. Peter’s Basilica dates from the 4th century AD. Construction of the present basilica began on 18 April 1506 and was completed on 18 November 1626.

Drawing and graphic reconstruction of the Constantinian basilica over the grave of St. Peter in Rome.

St. Peter’s Basilica is a building that measures 218 meters of length, a height of 46 meters in the central aisle, a main dome 136 meter high and 42 meters large in diameter. The huge façade is 114 meters wide and 47 meters high. It has a surface of 22000 square meters and twenty thousand persons can pray in it.

The Basilica has 6 bells, placed in the room under the Roman clock, only 3 of them are visible from ground level while the rest are hidden behind the bourdon. They range from the smallest which is 260 kg to the massive bourdon that approximately weighs 9 tonnes.

Main façade and dome of St. Peter’s Basilica seen from St. Peter’s Square / Image source

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