The Basilica of St. Peter is in the heart of the Vatican City, an independent sovereign state on the right bank of the Tiber river, in the centre of Rome
The Vatican State is the smallest State in the world, and what remains of temporal dominions of the Church, which were annexed to Italy at the end of 1800's with the unification of the country
The Basilica as we see it today, with its ribbed dome stands impressively in its square which seems to welcome all the pilgrims of the world in the embrace of the Mother Church. It was designed by the most famous architects and geniuses of the Renaissance and Baroque time
The Basilica stands on the foundations of the Constantinian basilica, that stood for over a thousand years on a sacred area of Pagan-Christians mausoleums. St. Peter's Square with its famous colonnade which represents one of the most brilliant ideas of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, is 320 meters wide with a central ellipsis of 240 meters and is surrounded by 4 rows of 284 columns and 88 pilasters. The balustrade above the columns is decorated with 140 statues of Saints. Below, a huge stairway of three flights flanked by the statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. In the center of the square there are two great fountains and an obelisk.
The façade of the Basilica -14.69 mt. wide and 47.3 mt. high - is made of travertine of Tivoli. It features a unique structure of Corinthian columns and frames a broad central portico with two arcades on either side (the one on the left leads to the City of the Vatican); above, nine balconies with windows (the central one is the loggia of the blessings) and a canonical attic surmounted by the balustrade that supports thirteen statues. Five bronze doors lead inside. In the middle of the church dominate the magnificent "dome" by Michelangelo and the smaller domes of the Gregorian and Clementine chapels.
Inside, the Basilica is 186 m long (218.7 with the portico, or front hall), the main nave is 46 m in height and the height of the dome is 119 m. Under the dome is the papal altar, with the famous canopy by Bernini rising over it. The sumptuousness of the interior is breathtaking: 45 altars, 11 chapels, around 10 thousand square metres of mosaics and many other masterpieces, such as the “Pietà” by Michelangelo. The tombs of several popes can befound under St. Peters Church. Constantine, the first Christian Emperor, wanted the building of the Basilica in 315 AD exactly on the site where the tomb of Christ's first Apostle was worshipped.
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