St Peter's Basilica - Rome visitor guide showing a virtual tour of 'St Peter's Basilica' linked to an interactive map with local and travel information. 360° panoramas from Roma.
The first thing that strikes the visitor entering Saint Peter's Basilica from St. Peter's Square is the size. St. Peter's is just huge, and nothing really can prepare you for that. This panorama shows an area within the Basilica close to the Papal Altar and the baldachin.
The Basilica of Saint Peter is officially known in Italian as the Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano and colloquially called Saint Peter's Basilica. It is the focal point of the Vatican and the focal point of the Roman Catholic Church. The first St. Peter's was built by Constantine between 320-322 AD. Over the following centuries the site endured several lootings and further embellishments. By the 1500 St. Peter's had suffered from neglect, was irreparable and dismantled to make room for the current Basilica. Thus on April 18, 1506, the cornerstone to the current version of St. Peter's Basilica was laid by Pope Julius II. It took over 100 years for the basilica to take shape. Some of the masonry came from the Colosseum in Rome.
The interior of St. Peter's Basilica contains over 400 statues as well as other paintings and artifacts. The interior is vast, and contains over 40 chapels. Each of the 5 named doors leading into St. Peter's from the basilica portico has a distinct history. The central door is from the old St. Peter's Basilica. The current St. Peter's Basilica is laid out in the form of a Latin Cross, with a 40m high nave and a floor laid in fantastically rich marble patterns.
The central focus of St. Peter's is the Papal Altar, where only the pope celebrates Mass. Towering over the Papal Altar, as seen in this image, is a baldachin designed by Bernini. It took 37 tonnes of bronze to build, and stands some 30 meters high. The Baldachin was designed to fill the space beneath the dome which rises about 140m above it. The bronze used to make the baldachin in St. Peter's was taken from the Pantheon, and underneath the Papal Altar is the traditional tomb of St. Peter. If you make the climb to the Cupola of St. Peter's Basilica you will come to a viewing gallery about 67m up looking back down into the church.
Also in this panoramic photograph you will see close up one of 4 pillars which support the weight of the dome. Each pillar is 71m in circumference and contains a huge statue of one of 4 saints whose relics are preserved in chapels set above the statues part way up the columns (as can be seen in the pillar beyond the main group of people gathered in front of the baldachin). These are the saints Helena, Veronica, Andrew and Longinus (who is said to be the soldier who pierced Jesus whilst he hung on the cross). A Latin inscription runs around tops of these columns and around the whole basilica. Above this inscription, as arches join the pillars, are 4 elegant mosaics.
The whole size and scale of St. Peter's dwarfs those who visit it, and it is quite hard to take in the full scale of the church.
The amount written about St. Peter's Basilica is as vast as the church itself, and those wanting more in depth information about the church, the different chapels, statues and other relics should go to the St. Peter's Basilica Website.