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Basilica di San Pietro Roma


Basilica di San PietroSaint Peter's Basilica: Open from 7 am to 6 pm (9 pm in summer). Basilica San Pietro was constructed over a period of more than 150 years and is the largest church in the world. This astonishing church contains many world renouned art works. Because of the enormity of the church and its wealth of artistic treasures, and because its construction spans historical periods, this church and its huge piazza have earned a section by themselves.
On the place were the church now stands, there was once the Circo Vaticano, built by Nero. It was in this stadium that St Peter and other Christians were martyred between 64 and 67 AD. The body of the saint was buried in an anonymous grave next to the wall of the circus, and the place became a hidden place of worship for the first Christians. In 160 AD the stadium was abandoned and a small monument erected on the grave. In 315 AD, after Constantine had seen the cross on the Monte Milvio and Christianism became an official religion, the Emperor ordered the construction of a basilica on the site of the apostle's tomb. This first St. Peter's was consecrated in 326 AD.
The church was in a poor state of repair for more than 1000 years. It is only around 1500 that serious reconstruction began, when Pope Julius II employed Donato Bramante. It took more than 150 years to complete the basilica, involving the contributions of Donato Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, Maderno and many other artists. At the age of 72, Michelangelo was responsible for the design of the basilica's dome (119 metres above the high altar). The interior, mainly decorated by Bernini and Giacomo della Porta, can hold up 60,000 people.
The basilica contains many masterpieces, of which the most famous is certainly the Piet? of Michelangelo (see picture) who sculpted this jewel of art when he was 25 years old. Also the Baroque canopy (29 metres high) made by Bernini is an extraordinary work. The bronze used to make it was taken from the Pantheon. The high altar, which only the Pope can use, stands over the site of St. Peter's grave.
Before you leave the basilica, don't forget to touch the right foot of the famous bronze statue of St. Peter, an old habit of everyone who enters the basilica. You will see how the foot has been worn down by the kisses and touch of pilgrims.
It is also possible to go to the roof of the church by elevator or stairs. If you ascend the stairs to the base of the dome, you can have a view down into the basilica. From there you can go to the top by a narrow staircase, where you have a splendid view of Rome.
Piazza San Pietro, the piazza directly in front of the basilica is a masterpiece. Designed by Bernini, it was laid out in the 17th century as a place for the Christians of the world to gather. The place is bounded by two semicircular collonades, each of which is made up of four rows of Doric columns. All this prized with 164 holies makes the piazza the most beautiful one in Rome. The obelisk that stands in the centre of it was brought from Heliopolis in Egypt, to Rome by Caligula.
Each Sunday at midday the Pope appears at one of the windows you can see from the piazza and blesses the people.

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