Who is St Peter?

We all know the famous attractions of St Peter’s Basilica and St Peter’s Square, some of Vatican city’s greatest treasures. But who is St Peter? Why are these places named after him?

Who is St. Peter?

Peter was one of Jesus’ twelve apostles in the Bible, and the first to recognise Jesus as the Messiah. He was once a fisherman who was named Simon, who meet Jesus near the Sea of Galilee. After Jesus saw his leadership qualities, he changed his name to Peter, which meant ‘rock.’ Jesus stated that Peter would be the rock on which Christ would build his church.

Why was he so important?

Although Peter had his weakness’ and doubts, he was the most important apostles from the beginning, as Jesus designated him to be the head of the apostles. He is always the first mentioned when listing the apostles, even the inner three. It is stated that Jesus gave Peter the keys of the church, which translated to him handing over the authority of leading and looking after the church and its people. After Jesus rose from the dead and asked Peter to care for the Church in his name, Peter performed the first miracle in the Lord’s name. He became the first pope of Rome and was said to be one of the greatest missionaries in the religious antiquity.

St Peter’s Basilica

This site is one of the world’s most famous Renaissance buildings. It is the world’s largest Catholic church and is one of the top attractions within the Vatican walls. It is acknowledged as the location of Saint Peter’s crucifixion and burial, along with more than a hundred tombs of past Popes. The original building was constructed in the 4th century. Not much of the old building is left, after being replaced on 18 April 1506, taking over 120 years to complete. It is an art lover’s heaven, with incredible architecture and decorations by famous artists such as Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. It is massive, reaching 190m in length, with the dome a whopping 136m in height, fitting over 20,000 people at once.

St Peter’s Square

On the Basilica’s doorsteps lies St. Peter’s Square. It is one of the largest squares in the world, at 320m in length and 240m in width, it can hold a staggering 300 000 people at once. Construction began in 1656, lasting until 1667, built so more people would be able to see the Pope give his blessing. The square is a piece of artwork, holding over 140 statues with the most famous being the Egyptian obelisk in the heart of the square. The royal staircase links the square to the Vatican Palaces, designed to look longer than they were.

No trip to the Vatican City is complete without seeing these two great attractions. Even if you aren’t a religious person, the artwork, architecture, and history of these landmarks are well worth the visit.

Check out our Private Vatican Tour if you prefer to have your own guide.

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