St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter's Basilica Facts

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Amazing Facts About St. Peter's Basilica

Emperor Nero Ordered St. Peter’s Execution

According to historical records, St. Peter was assassinated on Emperor Nero's orders during the Great Fire of Rome in AD64. Emperor Nero accused Christians for the fire and condemned St. Peter to death by crucifixion. Because he felt unworthy to be killed in the same manner as Christ, the Saint desired to be executed with his head down. Constantine I picked the precise location where St. Peter was martyred and buried when he intended to build a temple for him.

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Vatican Necropolis
Remains of the Vatican Necropolis

St. Peter's Basilica is situated beneath the Vatican Necropolis. In fact, the Necropolis predates the Basilica, and is believed to hold the remains of Roman figures from during Nero’s reign. The necropolis is a large burial chamber of Popes and other famous figures from the past, with depths exceeding 12 meters in certain areas. Explorations began in the mid-1940s, when Pope Pius XII commissioned a team to discover St. Peter's grave. Some of these cemeteries originate from the third century.

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Old St. Peter’s Basilica
Old St. Peter’s Basilica Stood Tall for 1200 Years

St. Peter's Basilica Facts also includes the fact that until Pope Julius II ordered the demolition of the first St. Peter's Basilica, the majestic temple stood for 1200 years. Built on the site of Nero's Circus, it earned Roman reverence for many years. The Basilica was in disrepair by the fifteenth century, requiring Pope Julius II to construct a new cathedral in its stead which makes it one of the interesting St. Peter's Basilica Facts. The design of the new edifice was influenced by the existing basilica in order to retain its virtues.

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Emperor Constantine
Emperor Constantine Built the First St. Peter’s Basilica

Constantine, the first Roman emperor to adopt Christianity, envisioned the Basilica being built over St. Peter's tomb. The burial site had been venerated by a monument called the Trophy of Gaius, which attracted Christian devotees from around the world. The Roman Empire Constantine I commissioned the construction of the first St. Peter's Basilica where the Trophy initially stood. The building began between AD 318 and 322 and was completed in less than 40 years. It stayed steadfast for many years, blending into Rome's history and attracting hundreds and thousands of pilgrims.

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saint peter basilica at night
91 Popes are Buried Under the Church

One of the most interesting facts about St. Peter’s Basilica would be that Around 91 Popes are buried in the papal tombs under St. Peter's Basilica. There are also several royal and noble graves in the same burial cemetery. In fact, there are two separate burial sections underneath the Basilica- the Vatican Necropolis, which is an ancient Roman burial chamber, and the Vatican Grottoes which acts as the burial spot for Popes in the past, present and the future. St. Leo I, St. John Paul II, and St. Pius X were all buried here. Because of their historical value, archaeologists regard these tombs as priceless relics.

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Relics of St. Peter Found Under the Altar of the Basilica
Relics of St. Peter Found Under the Altar of the Basilica

One of the most interesting St. Peter’s Basilica facts remain that the location of the relics of St. Peter was initially unknown to Church authorities. An investigation undertaken underneath the altar of St. Peter's Basilica in 1950 uncovered human bones dating back to the first century. These artifacts allegedly belonged to a 60-year-old man. The bones are usually assumed to be those of St. Peter. For the first time, Pope Francis exhibited the relics at a public Mass in 2013. His ashes are still kept under the Basilica's high altar, in an area marked as the ‘Red Wall’.

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Epitome of Renaissance architecture
Epitome of Renaissance architecture

One of the best known St. Peter’s Basilica facts is perhaps that the Basilica is one of the world’s biggest repositories of Renaissance architecture. The building of St. Peter's Basilica took about 120 years. The work was contributed to by Italian luminaries such as Michelangelo and Raphael, as well as architect Donato Bramante. Bramante's design was partially influenced by the Roman Pantheon, while Michelangelo created the Basilica's famous dome. The sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini was the last architect to touch the edifice.

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The Cupola
The Original St. Peter’s Basilica

An ancient church was in the same place before the current St. Peter's Basilica was built. The original structure was constructed under the orders of Constantine, the first Roman Emperor to endorse Christianity The ancient church was erected in the fourth century and stood where the current basilica now stands until Pope Julius II began building the modern St. Peter's Basilica in AD 1506.. It was a great gesture to commemorate the Apostle's death on Vatican Hill.

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St Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world

The Basilica’s size and grandiosity is perhaps the best known of all facts about St. Peter’s Basilica. St. Peter's Basilica has the world's highest dome, measuring 448.1 feet. Its massive innards occupy more than 3.7 acres, while the basilica's overall area is around 2.3 hectares. St. Peter's Square, located outside the Basilica, has a capacity of over 80,000 people. St. Peter's Basilica, often referred to as the world's biggest Christian church, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

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Burial Place of Saint Peter
Burial Place of Saint Peter

The church's location is widely thought to be the burial site of Saint Peter, the leader of Jesus Christ's 12 Apostles. As a result, it is regarded as the holiest spot in all of Christianity and Catholicism. Saint Peter was appointed Bishop of Antioch and afterwards as the first Bishop of Rome. Scholars believe Jesus was crucified in Rome, near the location where the Basilica was constructed. Emperor Constantine I planned to build a cathedral in the Vatican to honor St. Peter's sacrifice. The Apostle's grave is beneath the church, with an altar erected directly over it.

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How did St. Peter died?

A series of fatal fires had ravaged Rome in AD64, and the then ruler Nero- an opposer of Christians- had seized the opportunity to blame the cult of Christianity for it. As a result, St. Peter, the then leader of the sect, was sentenced to death in the Circus of Nero.

Where is St. Peter's Tomb?

St. Peter’s Tomb is believed to be housed within the Vatican Necropolis, right underneath the High Altar inside the Basilica.

Are the relics of St. Peter real?

DNA testing on the relics revealed that the remains belonged to a 60-odd year old man from the first century, and they were thus naturally attributed to the Apostle.

What is Old St. Peter's Basilica?

Where the present day Basilica now stands, once stood an older building of a similar regard. The Old St. Peter’s Basilica was built by Constantine to honor the death of the deceased Apostle. It gradually fell into ruins, and was replaced by the new one.

Who built St. Peter's Basilica?

Pope Julius VII commandeered the rebuilding of the new Basilica, while Donato Bramante was its primary architect.

Is St. Peter's Basilica the largest church in the world?

Yes, St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world.

Why is St Peter's Basilica famous?

The Basilica is famous for a great many reasons: for starters, it is considered as the seat of the Roman Catholic Church. The Basilica is also the largest Church in the world, and holds one of the world’s biggest collections of Renaissance and Neoclassical art.

Why was St Peter's basilica built?

The New Basilica was built to replace the old one, with the purpose of honoring the death of Christianity’s most important Apostle.

How long did it take to build St Peter's Basilica?

It took about one century for the Basilica to be built in its entirety.

Who built Old St Peter's Basilica?

The old Basilica had been built by Constantine, the then-Emperor of Rome.

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