Last Friday I took a good part of my day and dedicated it to visiting Saint Peter’s. If you couldn’t tell from some of my previous posts, Saint Peter’s has quickly become my favorite spot in Rome. Shockingly, this was my first time actually going inside the basilica! I wanted to do this visit right, so I looked up a good amount of information before I went to make sure I didn’t miss anything.
The walk from the residence to the square is a mere 15 minutes, a huge plus. I headed out around eleven, grabbed a cappuccino and made my way into Saint Peter’s square (actually, an oblong circle). I couldn’t have asked for a better day to visit- 75 degrees and sunny.. in NOVEMBER! I admired the famous square designed by Bernini and made my way to the long security line. Once past the check, there are two options on what to see. You can make your way directly into the basilica or wait in another line to climb Michelangelo’s famous dome. I chose to go up inside the dome first. The line can be a deterring factor, I waited a good hour and half, but it is completely worth it. For five euro, I got a ticket that allowed me to climb the 490 steps to the very top. On the climb to the top, you can stop halfway and look down into the basilica from the base of the dome. I had no idea that I was going to get the chance to be on the inside of the dome like that, it was an awesome surprise! I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen the inside yet to first climb the dome and be able to look down into the basilica.
After looking down into the basilica, there was still another 200 or so steps to climb to reach the top. You literally have to scale the dome, climbing up narrow staircases. Once at the top, the tiny doors open up to an incredible view. The dome is the highest in Rome, and allows you to see the entire city.
After coming back down from the top, I made my way into the basilica. To the right is Michelangelo’s famous Pieta sculpture, which in my opinion is the greatest piece by the artist. It sits behind bullet proof glass and is usually the most crowded spot in the church. The church itself is a masterpiece, the high vaulted ceilings create an echo of muffled voices and the light that is cast from the windows is breathtaking. The basilica is filled with many side chapels that hold daily masses and are decorated with Raphael’s, Bernini’s and just about any other master you can think of. The main focal point inside the basilica is the bronze canopy the marks the remains of Saint Peter. Created by Bernini, this canopy stands taller than some buildings in Rome today.
The canopy acts as a frame for the window behind it, also created by Bernini. This window has the image of a dove on it, is surrounded by golden angels and lets in the most beautiful sunlight. Below the window is an important sculpture in honor of Saint Peter which shows how important and centralized he is to the Catholic Church. I spent about an hour just walking through the church, and could have easily spent the whole day there. If I would have had the time, I would have loved to take a guided tour of the ancient necropolis that lies under St. Peter’s. This is the underground cemetery that holds remains of saints, popes and other important figures to the church. I was fortunate enough to visit St. Peter’s again, just yesterday, for a class site visit for my Baroque class. I had a lot of things explained to me about things I was unsure of when I visited by myself and of course just loved getting marvel at this gorgeous building once more.