St. Peter's Basilica
A little history of St. Peter's Basilica
The history of the St. Peter's Basilica begins in the 4th century when the Emperor Constantine decides to build a basilica where the apostle had been buried. In 329 the construction of the basilica was completed. The church was used for the celebration of the cult, as a covered cemetery and as a funeral banquet room. During the High Middle Ages it was the main pilgrimage site in the West. The archaeological excavations carried out under the present basilica, the descriptions, drawings and ancient paintings give us an idea of what the first Vatican basilica was like.
In 1506 Julius II begins the construction of a new basilica replacing the existing one, commissioning to the architect Donato Bramante. Bramante proposes a plant in Greek cross (four equal arms), like the Byzantine churches of 9th century. When Bramante passed away in 1514, the works passed to Rafael Sanzio and several proposals were discussed until 1521. Rafael died in 1520 and construction continues with Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, who in 1538 concretizes his project for the basilica.
In 1546, at the death of Antonio da Sangallo, the architect named was Michelangelo Buonarroti who will give the definitive shape to the design, simplifying the plant by eliminating the sacristies with towers of the corners of the square designed by Bramante; this transformed the outer limits of the area into a continuous surrounding wall giving unity and coherence to the volume of the building. Michelangelo reinforced the structure since the axis of his idea was the erection of an imposing canted dome, on an important drum, that would raise much more than the original proposal of Bramante.
Its construction was completed twenty-four years after his death by Domingo Fontana and Jacobo della Porta. The latter was in charge of concluding the project of Michelangelo and when dying in 1602 was only to erect the facade and design the square. Pope Paul V decided to extend the church to the front with the architect Carlo Maderno, transforming the plant of Greek cross by Bramante in a plant in Latin cross, traditional of the churches of the West.
Maderno prolongs the vault of the front arm placing on both sides a series of chapels covered with oval domes and in the exterior continues the wall designed by Michelangelo highlighting the front with great attached columns. The front was built between 1607 and 1612. In 1624, Juan Lorenzo Bernini, is called to realize the canopy that constitutes the major altar and that by tradition should be located in the center of the cross, on the tomb of the Apostle Peter, completed task in 1633. Since the death of Maderno in 1629, Bernini takes charge of the interior decoration of the whole church giving it its present appearance.
The entrance to the St. Peter’s Basilica is free. You can avoid the long queue by booking a group tour or a private tour.Hours
From October 1st to March 31st it is open every day from 7.00 am to 6.30 pm.
From April 1st to September 30th it is open every day from 7.00 am to 7.00 pm.
For religious reasons on Wednesday, on Sunday and on festivities the entrance is allowed after 1.00 pm
Closed on January 1st and 6th.
Piazza San Pietro, Città del Vaticano
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