Introduction to Saint Peter’s Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica (Italian: San Pietro in Vaticano) is a major basilica in Vatican City, an enclave of Rome. St. Peter’s was until recently the largest church ever built and it remains one of the holiest sites in Christendom. Contrary to what one might reasonably assume, St. Peter’s is not a cathedral – that honor in Rome goes to St. John Lateran.
St. Peter’s Basilica stands on the traditional site where Peter – the apostle who is considered the first pope – was crucified and buried. St. Peter’s tomb is under the main altar and many other popes are buried in the basilica as well. Originally founded by Constantine in 324, St. Peter’s Basilica was rebuilt in the 16th century by Renaissance masters including Bramante, Michelangelo and Bernini.
In the 1st century AD, the site of St. Peter’s Basilica hosted the Circus of Nero and a cemetery. According to ancient tradition, St. Peter was martyred in the Circus and buried nearby. His simple grave was remembered and visited by the faithful, and in 324, Emperor Constantine began construction on a great basilica over the tomb. The shrine of St. Peter is still the central focus of the church today.
In the mid-15th century it was decided that the old basilica should be rebuilt. Pope Nicholas V asked architect Bernardo Rossellino to start adding to the old church. This was abandoned after a short while, but in the late 15th century Pope Sixtus IV had the Sistine Chapel started nearby.
Construction on the current building began under Pope Julius II in 1506 and was completed in 1615 under Pope Paul V. Donato Bramante was to be the first chief architect. Many famous artists worked on the “Fabbrica di San Pietro” (as the complex of building operations were officially called). Michelangelo, who served as main architect for a while, designed the dome, and Bernini designed the great St. Peter’s Square.
A Narrated HD Video tour
Worldsiteguides.com is a website that features narrated HD videos of many of the world’s historic sites both sacred and secular.
Here is their Saint Peter’s Basilica video.
The video runs about 9 minutes but it is visually appealing and very informative.
More Details from Sacred Destinations
The link below from Sacred Destinations provides a more detailed description of the history and features of St. Peter’s as well as a number of high quality images of the site.
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