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A guided tour to St. Peter's Basilica

In the centre of the Vatican there is St. Peter's Square, an open space built by Bernini in the 17th century, which precedes the hub of the papal city: St. Peter's Basilica. This square, surrounded by 284 columns and 140 statues of saints, during liturgical celebrations can receive more than 300,000 people. This is the ideal starting point to discover the Vatican. Today we offer you a brief tour of St. Peter's Square and Basilica, so that you will not miss any details during your visit.


A brief history of St. Peter's Square and Basilica

The history of St. Peter's Basilica begins in the 4th century, when the emperor Constantine decided to build a religious temple on the site where the apostle St. Peter was buried.

But that first construction was replaced by the current Basilica by order of Pope Julius II, between 1506 and 1629. Several architects worked on this project, such as Donato Bramante, Raphael, Antonio da Sangallo and Michelangelo, who would give the final shape to the design. The interior was decorated by Bernini.

On the other hand, St. Peter's Square was constructed between 1656 and 1667 by Bernini and his pupils, under the command of Pope Alexander VII, with the aim of having a space to accommodate the visitors who gathered to receive the pontiff's blessing. Its central obelisk, its columns and its 140 figures of Saints invite you to walk around and pay attention to every detail of the Square, due to its important symbolism and religious significance.

Nowadays, St. Peter's Basilica is the largest Cathedral in the world, with a total area of 23,000 square meters, which requires taking several hours to visit. Due to the amount of details that these sites contain, we recommend a guided tour of the Vatican so you do not miss any detail.


Main art works in St. Peter's Basilica

During its centuries of history, St. Peter's Basilica has become not only the main ecclesiastical temple in the world, but also an important art space, home to some of the most stunning works in the history of world art.

The Pietà. Michelangelo Buonarroti (1499).

This marble sculpture made by Michelangelo is definitely the main attraction of St. Peter's Basilica for all the visitors, and one of the main sculptures of the Italian Renaissance. It depicts the Virgin Mary, wrapped in robes with striking folds, holding the body of her son.

The level of detail in the expressions, bodies and clothing is particularly impressive, as is the age at which the artist sculpted this masterpiece: Michelangelo was between 23 and 25 years old at the time of its creation.

You can find this marvellous sculpture in the Chapel of the Crucifix inside St. Peter's Basilica.

Estatua de bronce de San Pedro. Arnolfo di Cambio (1300)

En la parte derecha de la nave central se ubica otra de las principales esculturas de la Basílica: la estatua de San Pedro Apóstol, conocida también como “El Pescador” y atribuida a Arnolfo di Cambio. A diferencia de la mayoría de las esculturas del complejo, creadas durante el Renacimiento, esta obra de bronce fue esculpida en la Edad Media.

Si realizas tu visita a la Basílica y los Museos Vaticanos durante la fiesta del Santo (29 de junio) o en la Fiesta de la Cátedra de San Pedro (22 de febrero) podrás verla vestida con ornamentos papales, como forma de celebración hacia quien es reconocido como el primer Papa de la historia.

Tomb of Alexander VII. Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1678)

Like many other church buildings around the world, inside St. Peter's Basilica are buried prominent personalities linked to its history. As this Basilica is the main one of the Catholic Church, and the headquarter of the Vatican State, most of the papal tombs are in this temple, many of them accompanied by impressive sculptures.

The one of Alexander VII is one of the most showy. Created by Bernini, it is located at the front of the Basilica, in the left nave. In it, the Pontiff is masterfully represented surrounded by representations of the Theological Virtues: charity, truth, prudence and justice.

These are just some of the sculptures you will find during your tour to St. Peter's Basilica. In order not to lose any detail and to make your visit a really one of a kind experience, we recommend you to book one of our private tours of the Vatican Museums with expert guides.