Why is St Peter's Basilica So Significant?

The Papal Basilica of St Pete, known in short as St Peter’s Basilica, is a renaissance church in the Vatican City. This architectural marvel is the world’s largest Catholic church, and acts as a landmark within the Vatican walls. It is a world-renowned destination and one of the main reasons for people from across the globe to visit the Vatican City.

St. Peter's Basilica

When Was St Peter’s Basilica Built?

The original St Peter’s Basilica was built in the 4th century,

The Original Basilica

The church we know today was not actually the original St. Peter’s Basilica. The original was built in the 4th century by Emperor Constantine, who was the first Christian emperor in Rome. However, the building slowly deteriorated and by the Renaissance period was a crumbling landmark.

The New Basilica

In the mid-15th century, due to decaying demeanour, the Pope commissioned a replacement on 18 April 1506 and the new St. Peter’s Basilica was completed more than 120 years later. Naturally, this meant that not one person could design and oversee the entire project, as it lasted generations. However, the skilled hands and minds of Donato Bramente, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini brought this sensational building to life. It is now undoubtedly the world’s most famous piece of renaissance architecture. Capable of housing 20 000 people within its intricately mosaicked walls, St Peter’s Basilica is 190m from end to end and the center of the dome is a staggering 136m in height. As a work of art, as much as of architecture, St Peter’s Basilica is widely regarded as the greatest building of its age. While its immense size and fame lead many people to name it a cathedral, this is actually incorrect because it isn’t the seat of a bishop.

Why is it named St. Peter

The basilica is named after Peter, one of Jesus’ twelve apostles in the Bible. He originally was known as Simon and was a poor fisherman. He met Jesus near the Sea of Galilee and was the first person to recognise Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus soon changed his name to Peter, which translated to ‘rock.’ Indicating that was the rock on which Christ would build his church. Jesus appointed Peter with the task of looking at the church, making him become the very first Pope of Rome.

The Purpose of St Peter’s Basilica

Though it is a holy meeting place, and an exceptional attraction in the Vatican City, St Peter’s Basilica serves another purpose. It is said to be the final resting place of Saint Peter, whose tomb is rumored to be directly beneath the high altar of the Basilica. During the 1940s, excavations were done with a discovery of bones in 1953. The bones were said to be belonging to a man in his 60s, which was the same age Peter was documented to be before his death.

Not only did this make it an immensely significant site for Christianity of the past, but still has an impact on the religious traditions of today, with ceremonial burials of a number of popes taking place here as well. It also serves as a highlight for art lovers, as every inch of wall has been painstakingly carved, mosaicked and polished to ensure that the entire building is an artwork in its own right. It also houses a range of smaller artworks, the most notable of which is Michelangelo’s The Pietà. This exquisite marble masterpiece is priceless to the Vatican City, and is displayed behind glass to ensure that it remains intact.

A trip to the Vatican City truly would be incomplete without visiting St Peter’s Basilica. You’ll even have a chance to climb the narrow spiral staircase up to the very top of the dome. From here you can appreciate the city from a new and very unique perspective.

Language »