St. Peter's Basilica

Introduction to St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter's Basilica, an architectural masterpiece nestled in the heart of Vatican City, is more than a marvel of Renaissance architecture. A monumental symbol of history and religion, the basilica captivates the eyes and hearts of those who wander through its majestic archways. St. Peter's Basilica Vatican City is famous as one of the holiest shrines and significant pilgrimage sites in the Christian world. The basilica’s towering presence tells tales of the transformative journey of Christianity. It also houses the sacred burial site of Saint Peter, one of Jesus’s twelve apostles, beneath its grand high altar.

As you walk through the spacious nave, decorated with intricate marble, reliefs, and gilded architectural sculptures, you can discover centuries of devotion, artistry, and legacy. Each corner of the basilica showcases a chapter of religious admiration and artistic achievement, from Michelangelo’s exquisite Pietà to Bernini’s breathtaking Baldachin over the Papal Altar.

St. Peter's Basilica Vatican City is more than a sanctuary for prayer. It stands as a living testimony to a rich tapestry of historical events. This includes the confluence of the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation. St. Peter's Basilica also offers you an intricate narrative that resonates with believers and history enthusiasts alike.

In the embrace of St. Peter's Basilica monumental dome, stories of spiritual journeys, papal rituals, and historical eras vibrate in the silent whispers of its walls. All of this also makes a visit to St. Peter’s Basilica Vatican City an enriching encounter with the divine and the historical.

History & Construction of St. Peter's Basilica

Who built St. Peter's Basilica? Who built St. Peter's Basilica dome?

St. Peter's Basilica, an architectural marvel nestled in the heart of Vatican City, stands as a testament to the genius of several distinguished Renaissance architects. The initial design was assigned to Donato Bramante, whose grand vision laid the foundation for the basilica. Subsequent modifications and improvements came from other architectural greats like Raphael and Antonio da Sangallo.

Yet, when visiting St Peter's Basilica, one cannot help but associate the grandeur of its dome with Michelangelo. Taking charge in 1547, he significantly redefined Bramante's initial design, opting for a sturdier and more imposing structure. Michelangelo's dome, symbolising both the heavens and the grandeur of the church, towers majestically over the cityscape, setting St. Peter's apart in architectural significance.

When was St. Peter's Basilica built?

The monumental task of constructing St. Peter's Basilica spanned well over a century. One of the most common questions about this grand structure is when was St Peter's Basilica built. The construction of the basilica began in 1506 during the reign of Pope Julius II. It reached its completion in 1626 under Pope Urban VIII. Over this lengthy period, a succession of gifted architects lent their expertise. Furthermore, each of these architects gave a unique touch to the structure. This collaborative evolution resulted in a harmonious blend of design elements, resulting in a masterpiece of Renaissance artistry and architecture.

Saint Peter's burial site

Saint Peter, one of the closest apostles to Jesus, met a tragic end in Rome, succumbing to martyrdom during the brutal reign of Emperor Nero. According to longstanding Catholic tradition, after enduring crucifixion, Saint Peter's body was laid to rest near the Circus of Nero, situated on Vatican Hill. This sacred ground, a short distance from where he drew his last breath, swiftly became a pilgrimage destination. Compelling archaeological discoveries in the 20th century have unearthed evidence pointing to Saint Peter's final resting place, deep beneath the marble floors of St. Peter's Basilica.

Old St. Peter's Basilica

Before the towering structure of the current St. Peter's Basilica dominated Vatican City, the Old St. Peter's Basilica held its ground. When you ask when was St Peter's Basilica built, the most common answer is that it was commissioned by Emperor Constantine the Great. Furthermore, construction on this early Christian basilica spanned from 319 to 333 AD. Erected directly over the burial site of St. Peter, it stretched an impressive 103.6 meters. It also boasted of a majestic nave, flanked by aisles, culminating in a graceful apsidal end. But as centuries rolled on, wear, tear, and neglect spoiled its beauty, causing it to slowly crumble.

Plan to rebuild

By the vanishing years of the 15th century, the Old St. Peter's Basilica was a shadow of its former self, showing alarming signs of decay and neglect. Recognizing the urgent need, Pope Nicholas V planned to either restore the run-down structure or undertake a drastic transformation. However, it was under the dynamic leadership of Pope Julius II that the brave plan to erect a new, monumental basilica was conceived. The torch of this vision was passed down through successive popes, each entrusting a lineage of architects with the basilica's evolving design and construction.

Financing with indulgences

Raising funds for the colossal undertaking of St. Peter's Basilica proved to be a difficult task. A controversial solution emerged: offering indulgences in exchange for monetary contributions. This fundraising venture was energetically backed by Albrecht, the Archbishop of Mainz. He further tried to clear his substantial debts with the Roman Curia. Consequently, he delegated Johann Tetzel with the responsibility of selling these indulgences. This method, however, created quite a bit of controversy. Martin Luther strongly opposed the commercialization of divine grace, especially through the sale of indulgences. His passionate opposition resulted in the form of the 95 Theses, a significant document that unintentionally gave way to the Protestant Reformation.

What to See Inside the St. Peter's Basilica

The Fountains In St. Peter’s Square

St. Peter’s Square, known as the world's most renowned square, houses two fountains gracefully adorning each side. The right fountain was designed by Carlo Maderno in 1612 and is older than the fountain on the left by 65 years. In 1677, the left fountain was sculpted by the famed sculptor Bernini and was almost the same as the one by Maderno. When visiting St. Peter's Basilica, one might marvel at how, in the 17th century, water was sourced and propelled to such heights, especially without the proximity of a river. The engineering behind these fountains is nothing short of a marvel.

The Pillars & The Ceiling

The gigantic pillars in St. Peter's Basilica were first planned and proposed by Donato Bramante and then later brought to life by Michelangelo. These pillars are essential structures upholding the colossal dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. Their decorations, splendid works by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, house invaluable sacred relics. Inside, if you raise your eyes, you will see a dazzling gold leaf-covered ceiling, hinting at celestial realms. One particularly astounding feature is the gold band encircling the church. To an observer below, the eight-foot-high letters within this band seem modest in size, but their actual grandeur becomes evident when one sees cleaners working alongside them.

St. Peter’s Square

You cannot mention visiting St. Peter's Basilica without discussing the famous St. Peter’s Square. Often ranked as the most iconic square in the whole world, its foundation was laid when Pope Sixtus V commanded a vast Egyptian obelisk to be placed at its heart. The square’s actual construction, undertaken by the legendary Bernini under Pope Alexander VII, concluded in 1667. Its elliptical shape, lined with four rows of 284 Doric columns, was designed to symbolically embrace all Christians entering the basilica. Today, this square hosts significant papal events, a testament to its enduring importance.

The Dome

The dome or "cupola" of St. Peter's Basilica is a marvel of Renaissance architecture. Although Michelangelo conceptualized its design, the dome's actual construction was completed by Giacomo Della Porta in 1590. This iconic structure, consisting of various intricate elements, stands as one of the largest domes in the world. Michelangelo’s dedication to this project was profound; he refused any monetary compensation for its creation. Offering unparalleled views of the Vatican and Rome, a visit to the dome, inspired by both the Pantheon and Brunelleschi’s Duomo di Firenze, is a highlight for many visiting St. Peter's Basilica.

Statue Of St. Peter

While exploring St. Peter's Basilica, you will encounter a remarkable bronze statue of St. Peter. This statue, possibly a creation of Arnolfo di Cambio from the 13th century, depicts St. Peter bestowing blessings and holding the keys to heaven. Over the centuries, countless pilgrims have touched and kissed the statue's foot, seeking blessings and heavenly favour. Its importance to the faithful is evident each year on the feast of St. Peter when it's adorned in sacred robes and garments. To truly understand the draw of St. Peter's Basilica, one must witness the devotion with which believers approach this statue.

Tomb Of Innocent XI

In the heart of St. Peter's Basilica, the Tomb of Innocent XI captures attention. Innocent XI, one of the most important 17th-century popes, was respected for his firm morality during a time when the papacy was faced with corruption. His influential role in Austria's victory against the Ottoman Empire stopped the Islamic influence in Western Europe. Visitors to St. Peter's Basilica often express awe at his unique burial; he is exhibited in full attire, with a mask veiling his face and hands, preserving his dignity even in death. Positioned beneath the illustrious Transfiguration mosaic by Raphael, his tomb serves as an enduring testament to his legacy.

St. Peter’s Throne

While visiting St. Peter's Basilica, you will be drawn to the impressive Baroque altar known as St. Peter’s Throne. It encapsulates the essence of Baroque art – power, movement, and vibrant colours. Revered as the cathedra where St. Peter provided guidance to Rome's Christians, it covers a wooden and ivory throne believed to be from 875 AD, gifted by Charles the Bald to Pope John VIII. Gilded bronze engulfs this historic seat, complemented by sculptures of esteemed Latin and Greek church scholars. When you step into St. Peter’s Basilica, don't miss the ethereal light radiating from Bernini's window, adorned with a white dove.

La Pietà

One can't mention St. Peter's Basilica without highlighting Michelangelo's La Pietà. Carved impeccably from Carrara marble, this masterpiece, completed when Michelangelo was just 24, depicts the emotional moment Virgin Mary cradles Jesus' post-crucifixion. Its detail and emotive power are breathtaking, making it a must-see when visiting St. Peter's Basilica. Located in the first chapel on the right upon entry, this sculpture, unmatched in its emotional depth, stands as a testament to Michelangelo's unparalleled skill. It’s worth noting that the Pieta is one of the few artworks he ever signed, a testament to his pride in this creation.

High Altar (Tomb Of St. Peter)

The epicentre of St. Peter’s Basilica, the Papal Altar, sits majestically above the Tomb of St. Peter. Only the Pope, or his chosen representatives, are privileged to celebrate Mass here. This important spot also marks the resting place of St. Peter. As you explore deeper into the basilica, the detailed marble works around the tomb and the Confession area reveal its significance. The descent towards the tomb via a double ramp adorned with exquisite marble symbolises the architectural brilliance of the 1600s.


Elevating the grandeur of St. Peter’s Basilica is Bernini’s Baldacchino, a magnificent canopy over the high altar. Starting this masterpiece at the age of 26, Bernini designed it to bridge the expansive nave and Michelangelo's imposing dome. With spiralling bronze columns inspired by the Basilica of Constantine, the Baldacchino stands tall at 95 feet, drawing your eyes upwards towards the dome. As you make your way through St. Peter’s Basilica, this architectural marvel, constructed using materials from the Pantheon, beckons as a testament to Baroque magnificence.

Must Visit Attraction of St. Peter's Basilica

Dome Climb

St. Peter's Basilica is not just a marvel of architectural brilliance but also offers an exhilarating experience: the Dome Climb. You can embark on this journey every day from 08:00 a.m. to 06:00 p.m. from April to September and from 08:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m. from October to March. The Cupola of St. Peter's Basilica, often referred to as the Dome is a masterpiece conceived by Michelangelo. Though he initiated its construction in 1547, the Dome was only completed in 1590 by his pupil, Giacomo Della Porta. When you climb, you'll first reach the interior of the Dome, allowing you a closer look at intricate mosaics and a grand view of the basilica below. The second part, more suited for adventurous souls, takes you up winding steps, leading to breathtaking panoramas of Rome and Vatican City.

You can also checkout: St. Peter's Square Obelisk

Daily & Sunday mass schedule

When visiting St. Peter's Basilica, one can't help but be drawn to the daily masses. St. Peter’s Basilica, the heart of Vatican City, serves not only as a renowned monument but also as an active parish. Daily masses are celebrated in Italian, with a special Latin Mass offered daily too. The St Peter's Basilica mass times during the weekdays are typically at certain hours, such as 07:00 a.m., 08:00 a.m., 09:00 a.m., and so forth, with the last one being at 05:00 p.m. On Sundays and Holy Days, the St Peter's Basilica mass times range from early morning, starting at 07:00 a.m., up until the evening, ending at 05:30 p.m. Your visit can thus be both spiritually and historically enriching.

The Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica

The Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica, known as the 'Porta Sancta', is a symbol of God's everlasting mercy. Unique in its significance, this door is only opened during a Holy Year or Jubilee, which takes place every 25 years. When the year commences, the Pope ceremoniously strikes down the bricked wall of the door, welcoming pilgrims from around the globe. Representing Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the door's panels depict scenes from man's journey from sin to redemption through divine compassion. When not in a Jubilee year, the door remains sealed, awaiting its next grand opening.

Burials within the Basilica

St. Peter's Basilica isn't just a place of worship; it is also a resting place for many. The Basilica has long been a sought-after burial site, with popes, kings, and queens laid to rest within its confines. The most famous burial, around which the Basilica was constructed, is that of St. Peter himself, one of Jesus's apostles. Over the centuries, many popes chose this sacred ground as their final resting place, further enriching the Basilica's historical and spiritual significance. When you explore the premises of St. Peter's Basilica, you are basically walking amidst centuries of history and faith.

St Peter's Basilica Architects (Who Designed St. Peter's Basilica)


Donato Bramante, a leading artist in the Renaissance era, laid the foundational plan for St. Peter's Basilica. Tasked by the Pope, Bramante drew inspiration from the Roman Pantheon for his design. When visiting St. Peter's Basilica, you will witness the essence of his architectural brilliance. Sadly, Bramante couldn't see the Basilica's completion, due to his passing in 1514.

Giuliano da Sangallo

Following Bramante’s demise, the responsibility of St. Peter's Basilica shifted to Giuliano da Sangallo. Along with Fra Giocondo, Sangallo played a significant role in carrying Bramante's vision forward. Their joint efforts are evident in the intricate details when visiting St. Peter's Basilica.


After the untimely deaths of Giuliano da Sangallo and Fra Giocondo in 1515, the task landed in the hands of Raphael. With his artistic flair, Raphael introduced modifications to the original design. His contribution to St. Peter's Basilica cannot be overlooked, ensuring continuity in the project during challenging times.


The Basilica's awe-inspiring dome owes its design to Michelangelo. Although initially hesitant, Michelangelo's commitment to the Basilica transformed it. His vision stands tall, making visiting St. Peter's Basilica an unforgettable experience. The dome, an integral part of St. Peter's Basilica, reflects Michelangelo's unparalleled craftsmanship.

Carlo Maderno

In 1602, Carlo Maderno took the responsibility of St. Peter’s Basilica. Primarily, his expertise is evident in the nave and facade of the Basilica. Maderno's enhancements furthered the grandeur of St. Peter's Basilica. His appointment by the Pope led to pivotal architectural shifts, enhancing the Basilica's charm for all visiting.


Lastly, Bernini's artistry graced St. Peter's Basilica. His iconic contributions include St. Peter’s Chair and the Baldacchino. As one of the final architects, Bernini infused the Basilica with elements that are cherished today. Your experience of visiting St. Peter's Basilica is amplified by the very elements he introduced, encapsulating the Basilica's rich history and legacy.

Similar places to visit in Italy

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Nestled in the region of Tuscany, the Leaning Tower of Pisa remains a symbol of both human ingenuity and unpredictability. This freestanding bell tower, with its unintended yet captivating tilt, captures the imagination of every visitor. As you ascend its winding staircase, you're treated to panoramic views of the city, reminding you of the vast vistas witnessed from the vantage points around St. Peter's Basilica. Both structures, though different, transport you to an era where architectural marvels were created from sheer passion and brilliance.

Doge’s palace

Overlooking the Venetian lagoon, Doge’s Palace stands as a symbol of Venice's bygone opulence and power. A harmonious blend of Byzantine and Gothic architecture, every corner of this palace whispers tales of its rich past. Venturing inside, you're greeted by grand staircases, golden stairwells, and rooms adorned with art from masters like Tintoretto and Veronese. Similar to the experience of visiting St. Peter's Basilica, every step within the Doge’s Palace offers an intimate communion with history and unparalleled artistic expression.

Accademia Gallery

Situated in the heart of Florence, the Accademia Gallery is more than just a museum; it's a portal to the Renaissance era. Among its priceless artefacts, Michelangelo's "David" stands tall, symbolising human potential and artistic genius. As you wander its hallways, each room unfolds a new chapter of art history, showcasing masterpieces that resonate with the same dedication to craftsmanship and beauty found in St. Peter's Basilica.

Plan Your Visit to St. Peters Basilica

How to reach
Best time to visit
Opening Hours
Attire Guidelines
Guided Tours

By Bus

  • One of the most convenient ways of visiting St Peter's Basilica from Rome's city centre is by availing a bus ride. If you are coming to the Basilica from Roma Termini, you can get on bus 40 or 64. While bus 40 stops at Traspontina/Conciliazione, around 52 metres or a one-minute walk from the Basilica, bus 64 stops at Cavalleggeri/S. Pietro, located around 3.3 kilometres, or a 5 to 8-minute walk away. You can also take buses 32, 81, or 982, which stop at Piazza del Risorgimento, about 900 metres, or 4 minutes away; or get aboard buses 492 or 990, which stops at Via Leone IV / Via degli Scipioni, located 1.1 kilometres away.

By Metro

  • If you are travelling to St Peter's Basilica by metro, you can take a ride on the Red Line from Roma Termini station and get off at the Ottaviano-S. Pietro station, located approximately 1.2 kilometres, or 5 minutes away from the basilica.

By Train

  • For those coming to St Peter's Basilica via train, you have to reach St. Pietro station, located around 3.8 kilometres, or 10 minutes away. Some of the trains that you operate to this station include the RE 12524 or RED 12514 towards Civitavecchia, or the RE 4134 towards Pisa Centrale from Roma Termini.

By Tram

  • Another popular way to get to St Peter's Basilica is via a tram ride. You can easily take a ride on Tram 19 from V. Le Regina Margherita/ Morgagni from the Rome city centre. Get down at Piazza del Risorgimento, which is located just 900 metres away from the Basilica. From the station, you just need to walk for a couple of minutes to reach your destination.

The best time to visit St. Peter's Basilica is between November and March. To avoid crowds, go early in the morning from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. or in the late afternoon after 4:00 p.m.

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During the summer months, from April 1st to September 30th, St. Peter's Basilica is open from 07:00 a.m. to 07:10 p.m.

In contrast, the opening hours change slightly during the winter months, from October 1st to March 31st. During this period, St. Peter's Basilica is open from 07:00 a.m. to 06:30 p.m.

Get detailed information on St Peter's Basilica Opening Hours >>

Both men and women need to cover their shoulders and knees when inside. Women can wear sleeveless tops in the Vatican museums, but they must cover their shoulders with shawls or scarves in sacred areas like the basilica. Men should always wear sleeved shirts.

Avoid inappropriate clothing like offensive graphics, hats (for men), ripped jeans, and tight or revealing outfits. In summer, it's good to wear breathable fabrics while still following the modesty guidelines.

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St. Peter's Basilica, nestled within Vatican City, stands as a marvel of Renaissance and Baroque architecture. When visiting St. Peter's Basilica, your journey starts from the vast Portico, housing the significant Holy Door, only opened by the Pope every 25 years. As you venture further, you will find the breathtaking Pieta, Michelangelo's portrayal of poignant human suffering.

The basilica's floor plan boasts grand chapels and statues, including the notable Throne of St. Peter. Bernini's exquisite Baldicchino graces the Papal Altar, a masterpiece crafted over nine years. St. Peter's Basilica, built to honour the Catholic faith, invites you to witness its historic elegance.

St. Peter’s Basilica Entrances >>

The St. Peter's Basilica guided tour offers an immersive exploration of this iconic Vatican City landmark. Led by knowledgeable guides, visitors get to discover the rich history, stunning art, and architectural marvels of the basilica.

The tour typically covers key highlights, including Michelangelo's breathtaking dome and the awe-inspiring Papal Altar. Participants gain insights into the significance of this religious site while enjoying a curated and informative experience.

St. Peter's Basilica Guided Tours >>


What is St Peter's Basilica?

St. Peter's Basilica is an iconic Roman Catholic church located in Vatican City. Renowned for its grandeur, history, and spiritual significance, visiting St. Peter's Basilica offers a glimpse into the heart of the Catholic faith. It stands atop the burial site of Saint Peter, one of Jesus Christ's apostles.

Who built the dome of St Peter's Basilica?

The magnificent dome of St. Peter's Basilica, a defining feature of the Roman skyline, was designed by the illustrious Renaissance artist Michelangelo. He took over the project in 1547 and, while he didn't live to see its completion, his vision shaped its final design.

Why is St Peter's Basilica famous?

St. Peter's Basilica is famous for being the largest church in the world and a centre of Christian pilgrimage. With its historical importance, architectural marvels, and as the final resting place of numerous popes, including Saint Peter, visiting St Peter's Basilica is a profound experience for many.

Do you need tickets for St Peter's Basilica?

No, you do not need tickets to visit St. Peter's Basilica, since entry to the church is free. However, if you wish to visit the dome or the grottoes below, there is a fee of around €8 to €10 per person, or roughly between INR 700 to INR 880 per person. Additionally, while visiting St Peter's Basilica, guided tours, which often require tickets, offer in-depth insights.

How old is St Peter's Basilica?

The current St. Peter's Basilica was built over a span of 120 years, starting from 1506. However, this structure replaced an earlier church that dated back to the 4th century. Thus, while the present building is over 500 years old, the site's religious significance spans nearly two millennia.

How to get to St Peter's Basilica from the Vatican Museum?

You can easily walk to St. Peter’s Basilica from the Vatican Museums, which takes you through the Vatican Gardens and lasts for about 10 minutes to cover 1.2 kilometres. However, one of the easiest and most convenient ways to reach the basilica from the Museum directly is by heading to the Sistine Chapel. Once you are there, you can see a passage on the right side, which leads directly into St. Peter’s Basilica. 

What time does St Peter's Basilica close?

St Peter's Basilica opening hours vary throughout the year. Typically, in winter, it closes at 06:30 p.m., while during summer, it remains open until 07:00 p.m. It's advisable to check the official website for exact timings during your planned visit.

How tall is St Peter's Basilica?

St. Peter's Basilica reaches a staggering height of approximately 136.6 metres (448 feet) from the floor to the top of the external cross. This makes it one of the tallest religious structures in the world.

What to see in St Peter's Basilica?

When visiting St Peter's Basilica, notable attractions include Michelangelo's dome, the breathtaking Pieta sculpture, the Baldachin altar by Bernini, and the underground grottoes housing the tombs of numerous popes. Also, St Peter's Basilica mass times provide an opportunity to experience a service in this historic setting


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