Few buildings in the world are as precious and symbolic as St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, a jewel of the Italian Renaissance and Baroque, treasured by all Christians and tourists and  built right where the Apostle Peter, the first Pope, was buried between 64 and 68 AD. His tomb may be visited in the basement of the church.
Its reconstruction on the ruins of another church, erected by the Emperor Costantino in the fourth century, took place between 1506 and 1626. The 23,000 sq.m. Basilica hosts 45 altars and 11 chapels and masterpieces such as the “Pietà” by Michelangelo, several works by Bernini, included the canopy, and the bronze statue of St. Peter attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio. The first version of the church, known as Basilica Constantiniana, was built according to early Christian canons,  with five naves and a Latin cross plan, just like the  Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. The enlargement of the church, planned by Pope Niccolò V in the fifteenth century, was only started under Pope Giulio II by Donato Bramante, who projected a Greek cross plan. Afterwards, the debate about the plan was carried on by Raffaello, Michelangelo and Maderno, who, in the seventeenth century,  put forward a hybrid project to Pope Clemente VIII, adding a projecting section to the plan by Michelangelo. A few years later, Raffaello, Cesare Peruzzi and Antonio da Sangallo intervened and, in the middle of the century, Michelangelo projected the famous dome, erected by Giacomo Della Porta. Other interventions were carried on over the years by Pirro Ligorio, Vignola, Domenico Fontana and, in the seventeenth century the final one by Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who projected the impressive colonnade which hugged the pilgrims coming from the narrow streets of the “Borgo” (via della  Conciliazione since 1936) and reaching the large square, drawn through the intersection of two circles.  The dome, designed by Michelangelo when he was over seventy,  was finished by Giacomo della Porta in 1593. It has a diameter of 42 meters (a little shorter than the one in the Pantheon), and indoor stairs  leading to the summit, from where a beautiful view of the square can be enjoyed.  The basement of the  Basilica hosts the tombs of the Popes, the Roman Catacombs and many works of art. Worth a visit  is also the sacristy, built in the eighteenth century.

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