Theme Week Vatican City – St. Peter’s Basilica

Saturday, 29 December 2018 - 12:00 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Architecture, UNESCO World Heritage
Reading Time:  9 minutes

Tiber, Ponte Sant'Angelo and St. Peter's Basilica © Rabax63/cc-by-sa-4.0

Tiber, Ponte Sant’Angelo and St. Peter’s Basilica © Rabax63/cc-by-sa-4.0

The Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican, or simply St. Peter’s Basilica, is an Italian Renaissance church in Vatican City, the papal enclave within the city of Rome. Designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, St. Peter’s is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and the largest church in the world. While it is neither the mother church of the Catholic Church nor the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, St. Peter’s is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic shrines. It has been described as “holding a unique position in the Christian world” and as “the greatest of all churches of Christendom“.

Catholic tradition holds that the Basilica is the burial site of Saint Peter, chief among Jesus‘s Apostles and also the first Bishop of Rome. Saint Peter’s tomb is supposedly directly below the high altar of the Basilica. For this reason, many Popes have been interred at St. Peter’s since the Early Christian period, and there has been a church on this site since the time of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great. Construction of the present basilica, which would replace Old St. Peter’s Basilica from the 4th century AD, began on 18 April 1506 and was completed on 18 November 1626. St. Peter’s is famous as a place of pilgrimage and for its liturgical functions. The Pope presides at a number of liturgies throughout the year, drawing audiences of 15,000 to over 80,000 people, either within the Basilica or the adjoining St. Peter’s Square. St. Peter’s has many historical associations, with the Early Christian Church, the Papacy, the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-reformation and numerous artists, especially Michelangelo. As a work of architecture, it is regarded as the greatest building of its age. St. Peter’s is one of the four churches in the world that hold the rank of Major Basilica, all four of which are in Rome. Contrary to popular misconception, it is not a cathedral because it is not the seat of a bishop; the Cathedra of the Pope as Bishop of Rome is in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran.

St. Peter’s is a church built in the Renaissance style located in the Vatican City west of the River Tiber and near the Janiculum Hill and Hadrian’s Mausoleum. Its central dome dominates the skyline of Rome. The basilica is approached via St. Peter’s Square, a forecourt in two sections, both surrounded by tall colonnades. The first space is oval and the second trapezoid. The façade of the basilica, with a giant order of columns, stretches across the end of the square and is approached by steps on which stand two 5.55 metres (18.2 ft) statues of the 1st-century apostles to Rome, Saints Peter and Paul. The basilica is cruciform in shape, with an elongated nave in the Latin cross form but the early designs were for a centrally planned structure and this is still in evidence in the architecture. The central space is dominated both externally and internally by one of the largest domes in the world. The entrance is through a narthex, or entrance hall, which stretches across the building. One of the decorated bronze doors leading from the narthex is the Holy Door, only opened during jubilees.

Cupola of St. Peter's Basilica © Jose G. Molina/cc-by-sa-4.0 Dome of St. Peter's Basilica © isogood/cc-by-sa-4.0 Dome of St. Peter's Basilica © LivioAndronico/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Ranadeep Dhar/cc-by-sa-3.0 seen from Castel Sant'Angelo © Wolfgang Stuck Maderno's nave © Jean-Christophe BENOIST/cc-by-2.5 Statues of Saint Peter (left) and Saint Paul (right) flanking the entrance stairs © Jean-Pol GRANDMONT/cc-by-sa-3.0 The Chair of Saint Peter © Vitold Muratov/cc-by-sa-3.0 Tiber, Ponte Sant'Angelo and St. Peter's Basilica © Rabax63/cc-by-sa-4.0
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Statues of Saint Peter (left) and Saint Paul (right) flanking the entrance stairs © Jean-Pol GRANDMONT/cc-by-sa-3.0
The interior is of vast dimensions when compared with other churches. One author wrote: “Only gradually does it dawn upon us – as we watch people draw near to this or that monument, strangely they appear to shrink; they are, of course, dwarfed by the scale of everything in the building. This in its turn overwhelms us.” The nave which leads to the central dome is in three bays, with piers supporting a barrel-vault, the highest of any church. The nave is framed by wide aisles which have a number of chapels off them. There are also chapels surrounding the dome. Moving around the basilica in a clockwise direction they are: The Baptistery, the Chapel of the Presentation of the Virgin, the larger Choir Chapel, the Clementine Chapel with the altar of Saint Gregory, the Sacristy Entrance, the left transept with altars to the Crucifixion of Saint Peter, Saint Joseph and Saint Thomas, the altar of the Sacred Heart, the Chapel of the Madonna of Colonna, the altar of Saint Peter and the Paralytic, the apse with the Chair of Saint Peter, the altar of Saint Peter raising Tabitha, the altar of the Archangel Michael, the altar of the Navicella, the right transept with altars of Saint Erasmus, Saints Processo and Martiniano, and Saint Wenceslas, the altar of Saint Basil, the Gregorian Chapel with the altar of the Madonna of Succour, the larger Chapel of the Holy Sacrament, the Chapel of Saint Sebastian and the Chapel of the Pietà. At the heart of the basilica, beneath the high altar, is the Confessio or Chapel of the Confession, in reference to the confession of faith by St. Peter, which led to his martyrdom. Two curving marble staircases lead to this underground chapel at the level of the Constantinian church and immediately above the purported burial place of Saint Peter. The entire interior of St. Peter’s is lavishly decorated with marble, reliefs, architectural sculpture and gilding. The basilica contains a large number of tombs of popes and other notable people, many of which are considered outstanding artworks. There are also a number of sculptures in niches and chapels, including Michelangelo‘s Pietà. The central feature is a baldachin, or canopy over the Papal Altar, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The sanctuary culminates in a sculptural ensemble, also by Bernini, and containing the symbolic Chair of Saint Peter. One observer wrote: “St Peter’s Basilica is the reason why Rome is still the center of the civilized world. For religious, historical, and architectural reasons it by itself justifies a journey to Rome, and its interior offers a palimpsest of artistic styles at their best …” The American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson described St. Peter’s as “an ornament of the earth … the sublime of the beautiful.”

The design of St. Peter’s Basilica, and in particular its dome, has greatly influenced church architecture in Western Christendom. Within Rome, the huge domed church of Sant’Andrea della Valle was designed by Giacomo della Porta before the completion of St Peter’s Basilica, and subsequently worked on by Carlo Maderno. This was followed by the domes of San Carlo ai Catinari, Sant’Agnese in Agone, and many others. Christopher Wren‘s dome at St Paul’s Cathedral (London, England), the domes of Karlskirche (Vienna, Austria), St. Nicholas Church (Prague, Czech Republic), and the Pantheon (Paris, France) all pay homage to St Peter’s Basilica. The 19th and early-20th-century architectural revivals brought about the building of a great number of churches that imitate elements of St Peter’s to a greater or lesser degree, including St. Mary of the Angels in Chicago, St. Josaphat’s Basilica in Milwaukee, Immaculate Heart of Mary in Pittsburgh and Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral in Montreal, which replicates many aspects of St Peter’s on a smaller scale. Post-Modernism has seen free adaptations of St Peter’s in the Basilica of Our Lady of Licheń, and the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro.

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Read more on Wikipedia St. Peter’s Basilica. Learn more about the use of photos. To inform you about latest news most of the city, town or tourism websites offer a newsletter service and/or operate Facebook pages/Twitter accounts. In addition more and more destinations, tourist organizations and cultural institutions offer Apps for your Smart Phone or Tablet, to provide you with a mobile tourist guide (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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