Vatican - St Peters basilica by sunset

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Vatican - St Peters basilica by sunset ( 640x480 )
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St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the most known Christian churches in the world, the holiest Catholic place. It is the most prominent building in Vatican City. According to Christian tradition it is the burial place of St. Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, the first Bishop of Rome and therefore also the first Pope. Although the Vatican basilica is neither the Pope's official seat or first in rank among the great basilicas (St. John Lateran is the first one) and therefore not a cathedral, it is most certainly Pope’s principal church, as most Papal ceremonies take place at St. Peter's due to its size, proximity to the Papal residence, and location within the Vatican City walls.

There had been the church on the site since 4th century. The present basilica started to be built over the previous old Constantinian basilica on April 18, 1506. The church was completed in 1626 and it shown two architectural styles – Renaissance and Baroque. It is considered the greatest building of its age. There were several architects working on the church. To mention some, Donato Bramante, Antonio da Sangallo the younger, Michelangelo, Vignola, Giacomo della Porta, Carlo Maderno or Gianlorenzo Bernini.

St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in Christianity. The capacity of the church is more than 60,000 people. The church is 220 metres long and 150 wide. The width of the nave is 46,2 metres. The maximum height is 138 metres. The diameter of the dome is 42 metres.

Michelangelo designed the dome that is made of bricks and is one of the Rome’s landmarks. There is a beautiful view over the city from its gallery and roof of the basilica. The façade of the church is 116 m wide and 53 m high. It was designed by Carlo Modeno and built from 1608 to 1614. The central balcony is called the Loggia of the Blessings, and is used for the announcement of the new pope and his Urbi et Orbi blessing. The facade is topped by 13 statues in travertine. Between the façade and the interior is the portico.

The interior of the basilica is immense. Right after the central door is a large round porphyry slab where the Roman Emperors knelt for their coronation. On the floor along the whole nave there are markers with the comparative lengths of other churches. The insides of the pilasters that separate the nave from the side aisles have niches filled with statues of saints who founded religious orders. There are 39 of these.

At the crossing of the transepts is the central focus of the interior, the baldacchino designed by Bernini. It fills the vertical space under Michelangelo's great dome. It shelters the papal altar and the holy relics of St. Peter (not visible from here). At the foot of the baldacchino and papal altar is the sunken Confessio, a 17th-century chapel named in honor of the confession of St. Peter that led to his martyrdom here. The baldacchino is surrounded by four great piers that support the huge dome. Each pier has a large niche at its base, which is filled with a colossal statue of a saint representing each of the basilica's four major relics – St Helena, St Longinus, St Andrew and St Veronica. At the far west end of the basilica there is the tribune, which centers on the Cathedra of St. Peter. It is an enormous gilded bronze monument designed by Bernini in 1666 to enclose an oak throne donated by Carolingian ruler Charles the Bald upon his coronation in St. Peter's in 875.

In the both right and left aisles and transepts there are several chapels, altars and monuments.
Underneath the church there is a crypt that contains architectural fragments from earlier churches on the site and the tombs of many popes, and of course the tomb of St. Peter.
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