Saint Peter's Basilica is one of the most impressive basilicas in the world and stands at the heart of the micro country of Vatican City. The papal enclave is an independent country that is inside Rome (it is also the world's only theocracy). St. Peter's Basilica is a stunning work of art and one of the largest churches in the world (in fact it is the largest Cathedral in the world by internal area).
While visiting the Vatican City, many people only visit St. Peters and the Sistine Chapel, but there are many other rooms in the Vatican that tourists are not normally allowed to see.
About St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Basilica's full name is the Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican (or in Italian "Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano"). It is built in the Renaissance style and was built to replace the old St. Peter's Basilica that had stood since Constantine the Great in the 4th century.
- Built: 1506 to 1626
Some have described St. Peter's as the greatest of all churches in Christendom. It was built from 1506 to 1626 and is today regarded as one of the holiest Catholic shrines. That being said it is actually not the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome - that's the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome.
According to Catholic tradition, the basilica is the burial site of Saint Peter (although there is very little evidence that Peter ever when to Rome). St. Peter's tomb is supposedly right under the high altar o the basilica.
- St. Peter: Is Said To Be Buried Under The Basilica
- Tombs: Many Popes Have Been Entombed In The Basilica
Today St. Peter's is one of the greatest places of pilgrimage for devout Christians (the other two greatest pilgrimages are to Jerusalem in Israel and the Camino de San Sabastian in Spain).
Today there are only four basilicas in the world that hold the rank of "major basilica". All four of these are in Rome and the other three are
- St. John Lateran: The Cathedral Of the Diocese of Rome And Claim To Be The Mother Church of The World
- St. Paul Outside the Walls: Built Over The Burial Place Of St. Paul
- St. Mary Major: Largest Church in Rome Dedicated To The Virgin Mary
Visiting St. Peter's
Remember that the Vatican is very small and very popular. This means it is very crowded and one needs to be prepared for massive crowds and long queues. Plan to go in the off-season and less popular hours to avoid the worst of the queues.
- 1 April to 30 September: 7 AM to 7 PM | 1 October to 31 March: 7 AM to 6:30 PM
- Entrance Fee: Entrance To St. Peter's Is Free But Not To The Vatican Museums
- Entrance Fee: Vatican Museums €22 ($25)
Mass At St. Peter's
One can attend mass at St. Peter's Basilica too. It is free to attend mass but be prepared for large gatherings for mass. Mass is only offered in Latin and Italian - there are no Masses in English.
- Language: Latin and Italian (No English)
- Clothing: Dress In Proper Church Clothes (Covered Shoulders, No Shorts or Miniskirts, Covered Knees)
- Masses On Weekdays: 8:30 AM, 9 AM, 10 AM, 11 AM, 12 PM, and 5 PM (in Latin)
- Weekends and Holy Days: 9 AM, 10:30 AM (in Latin), 11:15 AM, 12:15 PM, 1 PM, 4 PM, 4:45 PM and 5:30 PM.
Guided Tours Of St. Peter's
It is impossible to describe St. Peter's or do any justice to it here and to get the most out of visiting it, consider taking a guided tour. Guided tours are not required to visit St. Peter's but they are an excellent way to really discover this remarkable building. St. Peter's Basilica offers several guided tours where one can understand the artwork and history of this remarkable building.
Another advantage is that one can skip the long queues with a guided tour. One can also explore the Vatican with private, early morning tours (perhaps the best time to see the Vatican).
The guided tours can take visitors up to the famed St. Peter's Basilica Dome where one can get splendid bird's eye views of Rome and the rest of the Vatican City. One can even explore the underground Vatican Necropolis - where St. Peter is said to have been buried. Their options are:
- Small-Group St. Peter's Basilica Guided Tour: Cost €27 ($31)
- St. Peter's Basilica Dome Tickets With Guided Tour: €39 ($44)
- Semi-Private Guided Tour - Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel: €59 ($68) - Duration 2.5 Hours
- Vatican City Tour with St. Peter's Basilica Dome Climb: From €99 ($115)
For more options of tours of the Vatican City, Vatican City Tours offers a range of tours, including fully private tours. Next time in Rome, do as the Romans do and marvel at this impressive work of art.