St Peter’s Basilica – Part of Roman holiday

Rome wasn’t built in a day and nor was this magnificent basilica. It might take us a couple of days to tour this imposing edifice and still some areas  might remain unexplored. Let us make a beginning.

The history

St Peter’s basilica in the Vatican City is the spiritual center of Catholicism and one of the holiest sites in Christendom. Emperor Constantine got it built in 324 AD on the Vatican Hill near the Tiber River. It was built exactly over the traditional site where Peter the apostle – regarded as the first pope – was buried after Emperor Nero crucified him in 64 AD. Many other popes are also buried here without, mercifully, being crucified first!

Constantine’s original basilica had become structurally weak. Pope Julius II got it demolished and the construction work for a new basilica was started in 1506 on the same site. It took some 120 years to complete the massive task. It now has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world. Great Renaissance and Baroque masters like Michelangelo, Bernini and Bramante were actively involved in its reconstruction. That surely is the reason for its visual magnificence.

About the Basilica

Travelers from different parts of the world with divergent religious faiths – or no faith at all – come to Rome and inevitably visit Vatican because it is such a wonderful place. They all get impressed as they enter the opulently decorated basilica beneath the magnificent and huge dome created by Michelangelo some 400 years ago.

Sistine Chapel

Get overwhelmed with Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam while exploring the Sistine Chapel where you will also see some of Raphael’s originals. The highlight of your visit to the Chapel is the Pieta, a mesmerizing Michelangelo creation, very tender and touching.

St Peter’s Square

A massive colonnade, designed by Bernini, gives the symbolic impression that the great church is welcoming all to its fold. Above the colonnade are 140 statues of saints crafted by eminent sculptures and installed in the second half of the 17th century. There are two beautiful fountains here; Carlo Maderno designed one, and Bernini designed the other.

The Egyptian obelisk

In the center of the square is a 25.5-meter tall 13th century BC obelisk that Nero brought from Egypt in the 1st century AD. It was first installed in a close-by location and later brought to its present location in 1585 on Papal order.

Guided walking tour

Walking, wherever and whenever possible, is the best way to know a new place better. And to derive more satisfaction from your visit it is advisable to take a guided tour. St Peter’s and Vatican Museums have huge collections. Let the knowledgeable guide share with you her knowledge of history and architecture of the Vatican.

Hotels

You aren’t likely to get any hotel in Vatican. You don’t have to stay there. The Holy City, after all, is part of Rome. There are plenty of hotels here. Select one from the Net and book online after negotiating the rate.

Restaurants

When you get hungry or thirsty while exploring Vatican, go out to the main road from where you had entered St Peter’s Square. There are a few good restaurants there.

Roman holiday

Plan your visit to Rome and explore Vatican at the same time. From tourism point of view Vatican is an integral part of Rome. No Roman holiday is complete without visiting the world’s smallest country next door!



aniruddha