The Vatican revolves around the grandiose St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest Christian church in the world.
It is the most important temple of Christianity and is built on the tomb of Saint Peter. In the same place there was a basilica, built in a necropolis from the 1st century, but it was demolished at the beginning of the 14th century to build this temple in a work that lasted 120 years.
It is almost impossible to describe in a few lines everything there is to see in Saint Peter’s Basilica so we will summarize the most important.
What to see in Saint Peter’s Basilica
Enjoy the exterior of St. Peter’s Basilica
Being in a huge square, it is possible that from the outside you cannot appreciate the great magnitude of the dimensions of the Basilica of San Pedro.
The main façade is 115 meters wide and 46 meters high and is crowned by the statues of Jesus Christ, John the Baptist and all the apostles (except Saint Peter).
This facade, designed by Maderno between 1607 and 1614, is made up of a first floor with columns and an upper floor with large windows and where the balcony is located where the Pope looks out on the day of his election and also during the Urbi et Orbi blessing..
On both sides of the facade we can see two statues of San Pedro and San Pablo.
And to enter the basilica you have some bronze doors, which were already in the old one, which will not leave you indifferent. One of them is the Holy Door, which only opens on Holy Years and is bricked up behind with cement, the Pope being the only one who can open and close it.
The Interior of Saint Peter’s Basilica
Once you are inside the Basilica of San Pedro you will find yourself in a place whose dimensions rule.
It is 187 meters long and 45 meters high, its floor is made of marble and it consists of 3 naves. Going through it completely will take you a long time.
Inside we can find points of interest and works of art at every step we take.
The first thing we are going to find is the Pietà by Michelangelo, located to the right of the entrance. To avoid vandalism nowadays you have to see it behind glass but still splendid.
Nearby we find the Tomb of John Paul II, transferred in 2011 from the Vatican grottoes.
As we have said, it is impossible to describe in a few lines all the statues, paintings and monuments that we find inside.
Among all we will highlight the Baldachin, located under the dome and which is the work of Bernini.
Made of bronze and 30 meters high, it is just above the tomb of Saint Peter and is one of the most spectacular elements inside.
Also very important is the Statue of Saint Peter, on the right side of the central nave. It is made of bronze and you will be able to see that its right foot is worn, since it is tradition for pilgrims to kiss the foot as a sign of fidelity to the Pope. It is normally known as The Fisherman.
Climb the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica
Without a doubt, one of the great masterpieces of the basilica.
It is also the highest in the world, being located at 136 meters high from where you have great views of Rome.
Its architect was the extraordinary Michelangelo but he died before finishing its construction and Giacomo della Porta had to finish it first and Maderno later.
But the dome is not only spectacular from the outside. It is also inside. Its interior is decorated with mosaics, although they may seem fresh, and you can almost touch them when you go up to it.
You can go up a part by elevator but the final part will have to be done on foot.
By the way, the climb can be overwhelming because in some sections it is narrow and there are quite a few stairs, but it is completely worth it.
The Vatican Grottoes
Under the basilica is one of the best known places in the Vatican. In this place we can find the tombs of different Popes from the 10th century.
The most famous, Pius XII, Paul VI or John Paul I. Before there was also that of John Paul II, one of the most beloved by visitors and in which there were always bouquets of flowers and dedicated messages from the faithful but it was moved inside the basilica.
But without a doubt, the most important tomb is that of Saint Peter, located just below the Baldachin and the Altar inside the basilica.
But to visit this tomb and the ancient necropolis, you have to request a permit and wait a long time, as visits are very restricted. In addition, it is not free like the rest of the caves.
You can find more information on the official website of St. Peter’s Basilica.