St. Peter's Basilica

Inside Saint Peters Basilica

Admire the Amazing Architectural Beauty Inside St. Peter's Basilica
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What to See Inside St. Peter’s Basilica?

The St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the most impressive pieces of renaissance architecture to ever have been made. Inside St. Peter’s Basilica are the majestic dome, high altar, bronze canopy, and many wonderful pieces crafted by the hands of not only one but some of the great architects of their time. In recent years, the church has been recognised as a World Heritage Site because of the rich value of the aesthete and the significance of its location.

Along with its architectural significance, the Basilica in itself is a teller of its own great stories of the popes’ tomb and the struggles of the Apostle, Saint Peter. As one arrives at the entrance, it begins the narration of how many years of struggle and many minds have contributed to making it the largest church.

Inside St. Peter’s Basilica

La Porta Santa ( Holy Door)
La Porta Santa ( Holy Door)

The La Santa Porta is a holy entrance to the Basilica that opens on Jubilee. It was the incredible work of art by the artist Vico Consorti (1902-97) which shaped the Holy Door. It was consecrated and opened on December 24th, 1949, by Pope Pius XII (r. 1939-58), marking the start of the Jubilee, or Holy Year, of 1950.

The door is made up of sixteen bronze panels, which depict scenes inspired by the theme of the 1950 Jubilee: 'The great return and the great pardon'. The bottom right panel depicts Pope Pius XII Opening the Holy Door.

In John 10:7-10 Jesus said, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved”, keeping this in mind the holy door was constructed to represent the path that takes one to the grace of God.

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High Altar ( Tomb Of St. Peter)

The High Altar (Tomb Of St. Peter) is a holy place from where only the Pope can give mass. Its location is below the Confession area dedicated to the tomb of St. Peter. It is also known as the most important work (architecturally speaking), created with hard stone, made in Rome in the 1600’s and also seen as the last work of such magnitude and richness done in this technique.

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The Papal Altar & Baldacchino

One of the timeless creations of the artist Bernini is the Baldacchino sitting in the St. Peter’s Basilica. The Baldacchino is a canopy that is located purposefully over the high altar. Pope Urban VIII ordered Bernini to make something magnificent to balance the long nave & the enormous dome so that they could connect and appeal to the person looking at the architecture. Therefore at a very young age, almost in his 20s, Gian Lorenzo Bernini created the Baldacchino to cover the high altar.

Bernini created a canopy of Bronze with spiraling columns rising up to the top. Bernini’s inspiration for the columns was taken from the style of columns in the Basilica of Constantine. The actual height is an astonishing 95ft(28m) high. It is very accurately put in the Basilica as you enter, you look naturally at the Baldacchino and continue the trajectory up to the top of the dome, beautifully completing the view of the church’s art.

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Michelangelo's Pieta
Michelangelo's Pieta

Michelangelo could truly do greatness justice as an artist and no other work of his can support the claim more than the Pieta in the St. Peter’s Basilica. In 1497, the French ambassador to the Holy See, Cardinal Jean de Bilhères-Lagraulas, commissioned Michelangelo to sculpt a full-size statue of the Pietà. Michelangelo at this time wasn’t well known. Determined to create the statue, with a single piece of Carrara marble, the maestro went to work. The statue captures the moment when the Virgin Mary is holding a recently crucified Jesus in her arms. The powerful scene is compounded more by her look of extreme sadness together with his completely collapsed body on her lap.

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The Paintings

The paintings in the Basilica are not technically paintings, since they are not made the traditional way. The difference occurs in items used for Basilica paintings which are ceramic or mosaics. The item used for Basilica paintings is ceramic or mosaics. The original paints had begun to fade due to humidity. The Basilica had to have something that would stand the test of time. Therefore, the paintings also had to stay equally timeless.

This is why when you are in the Basilica you can take photos with a flash because you are taking a picture of glass and not of a painting. Therefore, no damage will be done. You have to get up very close to the pictures in order to see the glare of light on it and the little squares of glass and ceramic that trick you to see them as paintings.

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St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter’s Throne

The features of this piece is its power, movement, and the color- that is what baroque art stands for. This is the place where St. Peter gave his instruction to the Christian. The bronze monument is actually covering up a wooden and ivory cathedra which many believed was the real throne. The Cathedra is covered in gilded bronze which is 21ft ( 7m) high. The bronze sculpture is surrounded by St. Augustine, St. Ambrosius, St. Athanasius, and St. John Chrysostom.

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The Pillars

To hold up the massive dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, the pillars needed to be gigantic. Donato Bramante started them and it was finished by Michelangelo. The illustrious Gian Lorenzo Bernini did the decorations on the pillars that show many significant people, symbols and aspects of Christianity.

Bernini carved out the massive ( 33ft in height) niches to be worked on between the years 1628-1639. Pope Urban VIII commissioned the decorations with the idea of housing sacred relics. The relics are the following:

  • A piece of the spear of the centurion St. Longinus who pierced the side of Jesus while on the cross

  • Fragments of the real cross of Jesus

  • Veronica’s veil which has the imprint of Jesus’ face on it

  • The head of St. Andrew

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The Ceiling
The Ceiling

The Basilica’s ceiling is in itself a marvelous piece of art and architecture. The ceiling itself is covered in gold leaf and shines as if you are already in heaven. Generally as your eyes look higher up things appear smaller. However, in St. Peter’s Basilica, as you look up, everything is completely proportional, because everything is made proportionally bigger as you go higher.

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The Dome
The Dome

Michelangelo worked on the dome only to honor St. Peter, glory to God, and for the salvation of his soul. St. Peter’s Basilica’s dome was inspired by the Pantheon’s structure. It bears the distinction of being the tallest dome in the world. The fact that this was built over 400 years ago is baffling. The exact dimensions of St. Peter’s Dome are 448.1 feet tall (136.5m).

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St. Peter’s Basilica Statues
Statue of St. Peter

Closer to the Baldacchino by Bernini, is a line of people who are waiting to touch the foot of the statue of St. Peter to pay respects to the apostle and to be blessed. The creator of the statue remains unknown. Many say it was the work of Arnolfo di Cambio in the 13th century. Tradition over the centuries has been to rub his right foot as a way of getting a blessing. One may see that due to the constant rubbing, his toes have completely worn away.

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Tomb of Innocent XI
Tomb of Innocent XI

Innocent XI stands out as one of the most important popes of the 17th century. This is because he possessed superior morals and shunned nepotism and corruption away in a time when both of these attributes plagued the papacy. He was a key figure in stopping the spread of Islam into Western Europe.

Obviously, the Innocent XI is buried in full view for all to see inside the church. Also since it is a tomb, it is elegantly clothed like any normal pope and has a mask over his face and hands so that you cannot see his bones. The tomb is kept below the painting in mosaic of the Transfiguration by Raphael the great.

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What can I see inside St. Peter's Basilica?

St. Peter's Basilica houses the tombs of 91 Popes, a few church dignitaries, monarchs, and other important figures from Roman history. Some noteworthy tombs that you will find inside are of St. Peter, John Paul II, Queen Charlotte of Cyprus, Queen Christina of Sweden, Pope Julius II, and many more.

Who designed the dome of St. Peter's Basilica?

The dome was the modified version of Pantheon. It was given by Michelangelo's design.

What is the Pieta?

The Pietà is a key work of Italian Renaissance sculpture by Michelangelo Buonarroti, now in St. Peter's Basilica.

What famous artworks are inside St. Peter's Basilica?

The interior of St. Peter's is filled with many masterpieces of Renaissance and Baroque art, among the most famous of which are Michelangelo's Pietà, the Baldacchino by Bernini over the main altar, the statue of St. Longinus in the crossing, the tomb of Urban VIII, and the bronze cathedra of St. Peter in the apse.

Where is the Baldacchino?

Peter's Baldachin is a large Baroque sculpted bronze canopy, technically called a ciborium or baldachin, over the high altar of St. Peter's Basilica

Who designed the Baldacchino?

The Baldacchino di San Pietro is the Baldachin in the St. Peter Basilica in Vatican City designed by Bernini.

Where is St. Peter's Chair?

The Chair of Saint Peter (Latin: Cathedra Petri), also known as the Throne of Saint Peter, is a relic conserved in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, the sovereign enclave of the Pope

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