St. Peter's Basilica Facts

Facts About St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican is a renowned church and one of the facts about St. Peter’s Basilica is, that it is designed by world-acclaimed architects like Michelangelo and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The church is held in high regard and its construction began in 1506 under Pope Julius II and concluded in 1626. The basilica occupies the traditional burial site of Saint Peter, the apostle and first pope. 

The iconic dome, crafted by Michelangelo, stands tall to a height of 136 meters (446 feet), presenting breathtaking views of the city of Rome. St. Peter’s Basilica holds immense significance as a pilgrimage site, revered for its Renaissance and Baroque architecture, as well as its priceless artworks. 

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 and it is one of the least known St. Peter's Basilica facts.

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 and it is considered as one of the interesting facts about 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.

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 , one of the least known St. Peter's Basilica facts. 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.

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.

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’.

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 of St Peter’s Basilica. 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.

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, one of the least-known facts about St. Peter's Basilica.

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.

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, one of the St. Peter's Basilica facts you should know. 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.


What are 5 facts about St. Peter's Basilica?

  • The Basilica’s location is considered to be the burial site of Saint Peter, the leader of Jesus Christ's 12 Apostles.
  • It has the world's highest dome and was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984.
  • Constantine, the first Roman emperor visualized the Basilica built over St. Peter's tomb.
  • The final touch on the church's facade was looked after by the artist Bernini and gave the Basilica the look that it has today.
  • One of the interesting facts about St. Peter’s Basilica is that around 91 Popes are buried in the papal tombs.

How old is the St Peter's Basilica?

The ancient church dates back to the 4th Century and was built where the current basilica stands. However, Pope Julius II started the building of the modern basilica in AD 1506. It took almost 120 years in the making of the church. The church is a home to the followers of Christianity and Catholicism. It witnesses homage from people across the world.

What are the 4 relics in St Peter's Basilica?

First, The Chair of St. Peter is housed in the Altar. Second, The Veil of Veronica, which was used by Veronica to wipe the face of Jesus on the way to Calvary, surprisingly bearing his image. Third is The Sword of St. Peter which is considered a ceremonial sword. Fourth is The Bronze Statue of St. Peter and pilgrims traditionally touch or kiss the right foot of the statue for blessings.

What are interesting facts about Saint Peter Basilica?

One of the most interesting facts about St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City is that it is the burial site of Saint Peter, one of Jesus Christ's apostles and the first Pope. Its iconic dome was designed by Michelangelo and, to date, remains the tallest in the world. The basilica's construction required enormous quantities of material, including travertine and marble, contributing to its religious and historical significance.

Who is buried in St. Peter's Basilica?

Several significant figures are considered to have found their resting place in St. Peter's Basilica, including Saint Peter himself. Saint Peter is considered the first Pope and apostle of Jesus Christ. Other notable burials include Pope John Paul II, Pope Pius XI, and several other pontiffs and royals. The Basilica is a pilgrimage site for Catholics worldwide due to its association with Saint Peter and its historical and religious significance.

Who built St. Peter's Basilica?

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

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.

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.

Know More: St. Peter's Basilica Mass

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.

Are the relics of St. Peter real?

After conducting DNA testing, it was uncovered that the relics corresponded to a male around 60 years of age from the 1st century. This compelling evidence led to the conclusion that the remains are indeed those of St. Peter.

How many Popes are buried inside St. Peter's Basilica?

Approximately 100 Popes have found their final resting place within the confines of St. Peter's Basilica, with 91 of them interred in the Vatican Necropolis.

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

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

Are the remains of St. Peter really in St. Peter's Basilica?

Indeed, it is believed that the remains of Saint Peter are enshrined within St. Peter's Basilica.

What is the Vatican Necropolis?

The Vatican Necropolis stands as an ancient burial ground, its remnants concealed beneath the present-day St. Peter's Basilica.

Read More: How To Get To St. Peter's Basilica


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