What's Inside St. Peter's Basilica

Get an overview of St. Peter’s Basilica interiors

The St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the most impressive pieces of Renaissance architecture to ever have been made and one of the best Basilicas in Vatican City. 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 recognized 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 Saint Peter, the Apostle. 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.

What is St. Peter's Basilica?

St. Peter's Basilica inisde stands as a paramount Roman church, situated upon the presumed site of St. Peter's martyrdom and burial by Emperor Nero. Its architectural design seamlessly melds Byzantine and Roman styles. Beyond its notable elements like the Dome, St. Peter's Tomb, and Baldacchino, the basilica boasts renowned marble mosaics, paintings, tapestries, and columns.

Emerging as a beacon of Renaissance architecture, St. Peter's Basilica swiftly attained eminence. Guided by Pope Julius II's vision and fueled by the ingenuity of premier architects, it secured a place among the world's finest churches. Every facet of the basilica bears witness to meticulous craftsmanship, affording visitors an abundance of marvels to contemplate.

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What's Inside St. Peter’s Basilica?

La Porta Santa ( Holy Door)

The La Santa Porta is a holy entrance to St. Pteter's Basilica inside 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.

High Altar ( Tomb Of St. Peter)

The High Altar (Tomb Of St. Peter) inside St. Peter's Basilica 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.


One of the timeless creations of the artist Bernini is the Baldacchino inside 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.

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 inside 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.

The Paintings

The paintings inside St Peter's 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.

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.

The Confessio

Crafted by Carlo Maderno from 1615 to 1617, the Confessio stands as a small yet resplendent altar. Positioned directly before the Tomb of St. Peter, this semi-circular expanse graces the Vatican Grottoes and is reachable via a staircase. While the Confessio dates back to the basilica's inception, Pope Clement VIII and Pope Paul V introduced numerous embellishments during their reigns.

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.

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).

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 and must things to see inside St. Peter's Basilica . 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.

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.

Statue of St. Longinus

St. Longinus, a Roman centurion in Christ's era, earned his name due to anonymity. Tradition suggests he was the one who pierced Christ's side with a lance, causing the last five wounds—known as Christ's 'Five Holy Wounds.' After Christ's death, Longinus' life turned somber, eventually prompting his conversion to Christianity. The Bible portrays his transformation from darkness to faith.

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Visiting inside the St. Peter's Basilica is imperative, not just for its prominent features, but also for the myriad lesser chapels, artworks, statues, and tombs inside and outside. When in Rome, don't miss this captivating site, where you'll encounter an array of captivating treasures. This remarkable attraction showcases some of the world's most exquisite and meaningful art and design, making it an unmissable experience.


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

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

Michelangelo, Maderno, Bramante, and Bernini were the principal designers behind the interiors of St. Peter's Basilica.

Who designed St. Peter's Chair?

The design of St. Peter's Chair was the work of Bernini.

Is the Vatican Necropolis inside St. Peter's Basilica?

Beneath the foundation of St Peter's Basilica inside lies the Vatican Necropolis.

Are the Vatican Grottoes inside St. Peter's Basilica?

Within the premises of St. Peter's Basilica, you can find the Vatican Grottoes.

Can I go inside St. Peter's Basilica?

Certainly, the interior of St. Peter's Basilica is open for public access.


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