The Treasures of St. Peter’s Basilica
By Melissa Reyes |
St. Peter’s Basilica, declared World Heritage Site, is the world’s largest church and it houses a great treasure of Renaissance and Baroque art.
ARCHITECTURAL HERITAGE OF THE VATICAN
St. Peter’s Basilica, declared World Heritage, is the world’s largest church with a length of 730 feet, a height of 448 feet and a width of 500 feet. This monument is not only outstanding because of its architectural splendor but also because it’s the most important religious center for the Catholic and Christian faith around the world. In fact, according to religious beliefs, the Basilica was built exactly as the apostle Saint Peter’s burial, a martyr and founder of the Catholic Church. Because of this, the Basilica receives thousands of believers and pilgrims each year. Besides, it’s the church where the Pope, maximum authority of Catholicism, celebrates the most important ceremonies. Nevertheless, DINKtravelers visit the world’s most important monuments for diverse reasons: yes, it may be for reasons of faith, but most importantly for artistic, historic, architectural and/or cultural appreciation. That’s why today we invite you to visit this icon of Vatican City, a must in your next trip to this destination that constitutes a magnificent complex of Italian Renaissance art.
ST. PETER’S SQUARE
The Basilica is located in the heart of Piazza San Pietro and it was designed by Italian sculptors and architects such as Gian Lorenzo Bernini, in the Holy See. The first thing you’ll appreciate upon arrival will be the gigantic ellipse-shaped square with an Egyptian obelisk known as “The Witness” in the center, and the two 320 meter-long arms that are held by 284 columns and 88 pillars. You’ll find that each pillar is adorned at the top with a sculpture that seems to serve as a motionless sentinel who observers everything that occurs at the immense square below. The reason why this area was designed like this is because it emulates two gigantic arms welcoming visitors.
Prepare your camera with a wide-angle lens because the framings you’ll find here will be harmonious, symmetric and extended.
ARCHITECTURE OF ST. PETER’S BASILICA
The Basilica’s façade has a series of tall columns, rose windows, reliefs and sculptures, while the entrance is preceded by two giant sculptures of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Get as close as you can to St. Peter’s statue and notice that it is somewhat deteriorated. The countless visitors who have kissed or touched it have caused this effect.
The interior design of St. Peter’s Basilica combines Renaissance and Baroque styles because it was created by several famous artists of different times. Among them you’ll find works by Michelangelo, Donato Bramante, Giacomo Della Porta and Carlo Maderno, to mention a few.
One of the characteristics of the Basilica that is more impressive is its huge dome, which you can climb to. Don’t miss the chance to go up there because it will offer you an incredible view of the city and, above all, of St. Peter’s Square.
MAIN ARTWORKS AT ST. PETER’S BASILICA
The most important treasures of St. Peter’s Basilica are located in the building’s interior. It houses a wide gallery of artistic jewels like Michelangelo’s Pietà, sculptures of saints and members of royalty like the equestrian figure of Constantine the Great by Bernini, a series of sarcophagus and a number of frescos and stained glass windows that capture the imaginary of the time when they were created.
THE VATICAN GROTTOES
The place that is considered the most sacred in the Basilica is St. Peter’s sepulcher, located in the Basilica grottoes. There, other renowned characters like kings and queens of Italy as well as popes from the tenth century onwards lie as well. You can visit the area, but we particularly recommend looking at the paintings in the chapels around the apse. In one of them you’ll find the painting “of the Bruised Madonna” by the Roman artist Pietro Cavallini. According to the legend, a drunk and angry man who had lost in a ballgame hit the painting with a ball and made the image bleed, hence its peculiar name.
TIPS FOR VISITING ST. PETER’S BASILICA
- Many tour operators offer tours that give the advantage of skipping long lines before entering the Basilica. Save some cash and get up early on the day of your visit. Invest that money on a map or an audio guide.
- Ignore tour operators that offer you a private audience with the Pope included as part of your visit. These types of audiences are not available for tourists as part of tours.
- On the day of your visit wear a long-sleeved shirt or t-shirt as well as pants or a long dress. In the Vatican they have a very strict dress code and they might not allow you in St. Peter’s if you’re wearing a sleeveless shirt or shorts.
- Plan spending approximately three hours in your visit to the Basilica and square, including climbing up to the dome.
- Take into account that on Wednesdays the Pope gives mass in the Basilica so it remains closed to the public until about 13 h.
There’s much to see and do at St. Peter’s Basilica so, without doubt, you must include it as part of your and, specifically, to the Holy See. We guarantee that you’ll enjoy a sublime and unforgettable experience.